Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Game Plan: To start again from where you left

The glares of the sun started to crawl from my window, escaping from the blue sheets that tried to partition me from the rest of the world. I was in a deep slumber, but the glares were so furious in entering my eyelids and so I was awaken to something I thought would be a fine morning.   

As a routine, I immediately grabbed my iPad and checked what ‘news’ is in store for me that day. In the social networking realm, ‘news’ are more likely to be in the form of instagram post, tweet or a facebook update. But I tapped the mail icon first thing that morning and eventually led me to a series of unread emails.

Dear Mr. Punzalan,

Please find attached a letter from the counselor, communicating the official and final result of your application for the Scholarship.

I have consciously prepared myself for this day. And a certain rush of blood has started to flow in my face, the rest of my body were shaking. My family and close friends were more excited about this day than I was. Weeks before, they solicited updates from me, but I could give none as it was not due for results release yet… Not until this morning.

I tapped the attached file on that email; the letter looked very surreal, as if it was one of those I have seen in the movies, from Hogwarts perhaps, only that it was online.  It had the logo on the upper left, the date and my name in bold letters above my home address.

Dear Mr. Punzalan,

Thank you for your application for the Scholarship.

The selection process was very competitive due to the high number of applications received and we only have a limited number of awards available. Unfortunately, your application was unsuccessful.

I have always assured myself that I am prepared for whatever the email will contain. Right after I had my interview weeks before, I tamed myself to accept how my application will be judged. I was self-guarded because they say that the lesser you expect, the lesser pain you will feel. But I proved everyone who said that wrong.  No wall could ever be enough to protect us from the emotions that we are hoping to shield ourselves from, and in my case, the frustration. Emotions are hand crafted to be too powerful and we should never under estimate them.

I showed the email to my parents who gave me strength in the midst of I, quitting the application process as it was the most tedious, effortful and costly application I have ever made in my life. My family and friends got my back on this which made everything more manageable. My sister even booked me a 5-star hotel accommodation when I had to take the professional English exam as one checkbox to the lengthy list of requirements. My friends offered their hand and time to gather my academic records from miles away. The learning manager from my work even bid me an hour of her ever busy schedule and enclosed me in a meeting room as she mentored me on how to portray myself in front of my distinguished panel of interviewers. Albeit I tried to keep it a secret, I have received an overwhelming pour of well wishes and prayers. They knew me too well that this was a dream I have always looked upon – gaining a prestigious master’s degree in an international university.

I walked steadily up the stairs, heading back to my room where I was initially poised at; I stared back at the glares from my room window which awoke me that morning. I sat on the edge of my bed and unconsciously, there were drops falling from my eyes though I was feeling and thinking blankly.

I don’t understand where those tears came from; I knew for sure that I have buckled my belt so tight prior to that day.


A few weeks ago, I was in cloud nine when I received an email from the same saying that my application, along with my proposal was shortlisted for the awards across the high competition of applications, and I was due for final interview with a set of interviewers coming from well respected organizations.

I carefully weighted my options on what to wear for that interview. I decided to wear something that would speak of who I was. Young, fun but straightforward. I wore a plaid long sleeved polo in the streaks of blue, red and white, a pair of khaki trousers and wrapped myself up with a black coat.

I was there 20 minutes ahead of my schedule only to find out that the sessions were delayed for not less than an hour. Parallel to me was a guy who waited for almost the same as I do on that couch, he was sharp and I could tell immediately that he must have had years of work experience in contrast to my two years. I was right. He was a manager for nine years in a health care government agency. He was vying for the same award, I was competing with a manager. How else could I not be intimidated? We had short conversations, bits of chat to help us both be at ease while waiting. You see those movies when they have a frame shot on interviewees waiting for their names to be called on the reception area? That was exactly how it was.


When it was my turn to face the panel, I started with a smile and the smile has kept me company all through out. Our conversations were very smooth and I could say that I threw them a good impression of I, being a young boy with big dreams. My mentor, as I mentioned earlier gave me a premiere view of myself, of reaching for the stars instead of the moon, of being young and thirsty for learning. That was how I was planning to sell myself right there. The forty minute exchange of views and opinions was well tucked. It could have been the best interview I have ever experienced, with cherry on top, if it were not for that fatal one last question which I have already thought of but could not find the perfect answer.

I’m not quite sure if that one last hit had me bleeding and if it overpowered the rest of the thirty nine minutes I have been working so hard to raise the bar. Maybe it was that fatal, I assume.

I remain hopeful still though, that with a paper I projected for a noble cause, I can make it through.


The glares from the window pane have started a descent of angle as the sun was starting to go up high. I could do nothing but think of the money we have spent, of everybody’s efforts to pull the strings together, of almost three months of working and writing that application and another two months of waiting, skipping weekend fun with my friends all because I need to focus. Most importantly, how much I have invested myself on a dream I share with everyone who believes in me. But this failure is actually wryly imperative to the universal concept of this dream.  The dream remains constant, of course, but the failure only explains that the ‘how’ part of reaching for the dream might not be the one defined for you. The dream is still there to be caught, but you have to go back to base and think which game plan to use. This is where the cliché line ‘Life is a big battle ground’ comes into sense.

Well I also thought that if this wasn’t the game plan designed for me to reach that dream, then why do I have to go too far only to fail when I could have failed earlier in the game already. The answer is:  because I have to understand what the failure was for and to explain to me why this game plan is the wrong one. Had I failed early in the game, I must have been just bitter with failure itself not clearly understanding the logic behind, but having fought the game until the farthest I could; I saw what the entire game plan was all about and understood why it wasn’t for me.

That last question in that interview got me scared about my application and got me summoning myself, the responsibility was just too enormous to handle, though I was optimistic that I could bear it, I have to make a reality check if that kind of responsibility was something I was up for.


Now I still don’t know which game plan is the one written in the stars for me to reach that dream. But at least I got one in the list crossed out. I’ll probably start from there.

P.S. Dear family and friends who gave me the chance to prove myself, this entire event might not be the most grandeur of them all, it actually is just mundane if you look at it, but I give my warmest thanks for the support you have unconditionally offered no matter how big or small this affair is. Your well wishes are everything I need to know that I still have the best things in life.

Note: The anonymity of the scholarship program is preserved due to the author's will to not cause any misunderstanding of their selection process or promote biased view of the scholarship program. The communication from the organizers are only snippet of the entire letter. 


  1. Dear Best Friend,

    I would like you know that you gained my respect by witnessing how you humbly accepted that you did not made it this time. I can feel where you are coming from, and I feel guilty knowing that I was the one who opened this idea to you. Give yourself a credit that you reached the final part of that "competition". I still believed in you. I am proud of WHO you are, and WHAT you are. You have proven so much, there is no reason for you to explain to us that you didn't make it. The scholarship is not meant for you or maybe its not yet the right time. So its up to you if you still have the courage to do it one more time next year. There are different avenues to take...we just have to know which way is right for you. We will figure it out :).



  2. One failure does not define a person. Life goes on. Continue the daily grind. You are young and the possibilities are endless.

  3. Beast friend! You're still young! Continue to chase your dream and don't give up! :)