In Which I Reveal That I Hated The Uniform

One of the things I knew even as I was just starting this whole studying again thing was that I wasn’t going to write about the experience exhaustively until I was done. Live first, write later. This is why I’ve mostly been tight-lipped about the minutiae of my current academic life. Everything that’s been written on this blog is the full extent of what I have published—save for the occasional tweets and rare Instagram stories, all of which were intentionally vague and/or meant to be taken lightly—and since I don’t advertise this blog, ever (it’s linked in my Twitter bio but that’s the worst of it), I like to think I’m successful in being quiet about it. For one, real-time posting lends itself to the complaining side more often than not—we are always most frustrated about the struggle while we are still struggling, are we not? We don’t get to wisely reflect about why it was worth it until it’s over. Like—even looking back at my posts here, I can recognize that I sound almost condescending towards my schoolmates when that’s not really the case; it’s just the tiniest of frustrations amplified. I’m sitting here typing this, thinking, “It wasn’t that bad. Why was I so snarky?” Hindsight: 20/20. Another thing is that there seems to be a Suffering Olympics (and Life Achievement Olympics) element to social media that I don’t want to participate in (anymore. Oh, I definitely used to). I’m not sure why we want to one up each other all the time. As if there’s a prize to win if your struggle was greater than all the others.’ It’s not exactly helpful.

Plus, if there’s a thing I learned from my crooked academic path so far, it’s that I must keep looking at The Big Picture. It’s a little pointless to whine about this annoying assignment or that stressful project or this one low quiz score when you understand that all of it is exactly how things work. I’m a student; I’m supposed to go through these things. It’s a struggle because it’s supposed to be a struggle. That’s what getting a degree takes. Not that I am minimizing the difficulty of it all; I just don’t see the need to make thinkpieces about every little difficult thing. (To be clear, I am 100% throwing shade at my younger self. I was—still am—dramatic about everything. I used to dedicate #TheStruggleIsReal blog posts about Highly Important Matters such as dental elastics and club meetings. With matching photos to boot. Edi wow.)

Anyway. TL;DR: I am going to write about the College 2.0 experience in depth. That’s totally coming. I knew it would be coming right from the first day. There is an extensive list of bullet points already existing in my head. But I will not start the actual writing and reflection process, and I certainly would not publish it, until after I’ve completed my degree requirements. I mean, yes, sometimes I feel guilty that I have not spent more ~ink~ for computer science the way I have for medical laboratory science, when CS has been very, very, very kind to me and has certainly never made me feel depressed (looking at you, MLS) (lol). I’ve also dodged talking about the Ateneo and how it has treated me, when I probably should have (spoiler alert: isss all good). I will talk about these things. But I know I’ll write with more clarity, cadence, and (probably) wisdom when I get to look back at everything, rather than now, while I’m still living the reality.

But yeah. Why am I regurgitating what has been plainly obvious about my blog-writing since forever? Well, this comes in light of hearing more and more questions from people again about my current status. Perhaps because it’s March. Graduation season. And I’ve been very quiet, so what’s up with me? Am I still alive? How am I doing? More importantly, am I graduating already?

Well. Not yet, although I am in the last lap of this crazy ride. I literally have six more units to complete. Six. That’s only two more courses. (I might take a couple more electives just so I don’t waste my time, lol.) If things go as planned, I’ll be done by October.

It is insane how fast it has been. I cannot wrap my head around it. A few weeks ago one of my graduating classmates asked for advice about studying again—“I want to take further studies in Singapore but that’s another three years. That’s too long. Should I? Is it worth it?”—and I have never tried to say anything more emphatically as when I answered him, “Dude, you will not notice time passing. YOU WILL NOT. NOTICE. TIME. PASSING.”

I swear it was only yesterday when I entered Physics lab and saw these classmates for the first time. They were sophomores. They were babies. I merely blinked and now they’re graduating! They’re going to start careers! It’s so crazy. Like, my College 1.0 experience was a four-year journey. I felt that. I remember each year distinctly and definitively. I don’t know why College 2.0 is not the case. It is all a blur. There are classes that I took in 2015 that still seem to me like I have taken them in 2017. It is so mind boggling. It’s like time just sped up and started doing wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey Doctor Who stuff after I graduated the first time.

So, um, actually, what really triggered this post is this: A few days ago it dawned on me, belatedly, that last week I might have already worn my undergrad uniform for what could be the last time. I still had one exam this week and I assumed that was another uniform day, but the exam was in fact on a wash day. So that’s the semester all wrapped up, and those uniforms stored indefinitely. Probably forever. Just like that. I blinked and that’s it. Not that wearing a uniform for the last time is A Momentous Occasion or anything like that. But … okay. Confession Time! I was thinking of adding this to the Big Ol’ Post-College 2.0 Review piece but it’s about my anxiety more than anything, so I’ll just get this off my chest now.

I actually hated wearing an undergraduate uniform again. Dun, dun, dun.

I really thought I’d get used to the unsettling feeling, but here I am, a whirlwind of semesters later, done, and still not used to it at all; in fact, you don’t even know how effing relieved I am that I may not have to wear it any longer.

It’s not the physical design or the materials. Cus, I mean, it’s … a uniform. A blouse, a skirt, a ribbon, a pin. And leather shoes. I am indifferent to what it looks like, except for its being all-white, I guess. (I wonder if a woman had any input in the uniform design, and if the word menstruation ever crossed her mind.) But then, I’ve been in all-white uniforms before, in the hospital, working with all sorts of colored fluids, and sure enough, I have never been a fan, but, like … I could live with it. I do very much prefer the scrubs, though—that’s like wearing a loose shirt and PJ’s with sneakers to work, a.k.a. The Best. Forever. Pants > Skirt any day. So I look forward to wearing dark pants on the regular again, if I get to wear an OJT uniform for the next semesters.

No, I hated wearing my undergrad uniform because of a … problem existing entirely inside my head. Created by my anxiety, really. Because my anxiety is always thirsty. The thirstiest. It always wants me to feel uncomfortable in my skin and ashamed of myself in any way it can. But it lost its hold on my own self-worth: I do not think of myself as a failure. Maybe I can see that at some point I did fail and I had to regroup, but no way in there, and anywhere, do I see failure as being shameful. I don’t think my quitting my job to study again is shameful. Not one second in the past three years. That stance is rock-solid. Unshakeable.

So instead, my anxiety dangles in front of my eyes the idea of other people thinking of me as a failure. Because this I cannot be sure about. I will never know what other people think. And someone already yelled at me that people think I’m an embarrassment although they never say it out loud, so there’s that. I don’t care what other people think, but my anxiety is always yelling THEY THINK THE WORST OF YOU. SHAME!!! in my ear, and there’s some evidence of that, so that’s where the discomfort is stemming from.

Wearing the undergrad uniform means everyone can see that I am an undergraduate again. When technically I’m not supposed to be one anymore. When it was assumed I was on my way to becoming a physician. It means I might bump into an old batchmate somewhere, and that batchmate will do an obvious double-take when he sees me. In my not-SPC, not-post-graduate uniform. (This happened.) It means I may be waiting for a ride by the side of some road, and I will make accidental eye-contact with an old schoolmate from high school who is in a passing jeepney, and I will see the abrupt change in the expression on his face, from recognition to total “What the fuck?!?” because why am I in this uniform? I am older than him; was I not supposed to have graduated already? From a different school? Heck, I was high school valedictorian; how was I delayed? I see all these questions on his face because it all happens in a matter of seconds, not enough time for him to arrange his features into more polite surprise. And all I can do is smile sheepishly back. (Yes, this also happened.) It means that at school I may meet a younger sibling of an old classmate from years ago, wearing the same uniform as me, and she’ll look at me with wide eyes before pretending she doesn’t remember who I am and that oh, it’s totally not bizarre that I am here the same time as her when I am already so old. (Of course this has also happened.) It means my sister can be visiting from Makati and she will see me in that uniform for the first time and crinkle her nose and say, “Hindi bagay.” All my siblings are Ateneo graduates, and I’m supposed to be the one from SPC. The sight of me in this uniform is wrong, somehow. (You already know: This has happened, too.)

Wearing the uniform makes me look like an undergraduate, all while I am fully aware I’m not one. It makes me feel pretentious. I’m just taking an undergraduate course, because I have to do that to get where I want to go, but like, I don’t feel like an undergraduate at all nor do I want to go around pretending that I am one. Having to wear the uniform feels like shackles, almost, or a brand, which it is, I guess—I don’t want to wear it, but I have to. It’s the only negative thing about all of this studying again, to be honest. My anxiety LOVES it. It reminds me I’m not taking further studies; it is not progression; I backtracked and wasted time and now have to earn units all over again. And I’m not the only one who sees it; other people see it too, because I am wearing my failure.

The uniform empowered my anxiety, is what I’m saying. I’m almost grateful our computer labs are freezing because it means I always had an excuse to wear a cardigan or a jacket. I felt less exposed and insecure when I had a cardigan that was all buttoned up, hiding my blouse. I don’t know why that even made a difference, but it did.

It doesn’t even matter that I know most people don’t care. Like, I know my classmates and teachers don’t care. My closest friends don’t care. My best friend wants me to send her pictures of me in my uniform. And I met plenty of batchmates who were completely nonchalant about what I was wearing. I’m also pretty sure that a lot of people have no idea what I’ve been doing with my life because a) I have not posted a Facebook update since 2013 which means b) I have not issued a formal press release that I’ve studied again. The shocked people were just caught off guard, that’s all. They don’t really care. And if they think it’s embarrassing, I don’t, so why should I feel insecure? My brain knows this. And yet. Anxiety is hell of a drug.

So, you know. Much as I want to say I was this totally zen, unflappable person who was so above all trivial problems including a weird complex about having to wear an undergraduate uniform again … Well. No, siree. I also wish I could just laugh at people, you know? Like, when they look at me all gobsmacked, I could just be like, “SURPRISE! I’m not who you expected me to be. Ha.” and twirl my white skirt in mirth. But no, heat only rushed to my cheeks as I zipped my jacket a little tighter. Every time.

Well. Now I’ve hung my uniforms up for what was probably the last time, so I survived, I guess. I never got over it, though.

But I just want to release all this information out to the world as a tiny middle finger to my anxiety. The shame it generated made me want to cover and hide more times than I’d like, but you know what? Screw that—here it is for everyone to see. I don’t want it to make me feel small in that way anymore.

I’m getting a degree again soon. Fuck outta here with that shame.

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