“Cum laude ka raw?” asked the old man on the phone.
“Saan mo narinig?” I asked.
We continued our short chitchat and then he said:
“Ang advice ko sayo, mag-aral kang mabuti.”
My dad laughed as I talked about the phone conversation I had with this man. He must be crazy. Or does he know what a ‘cum laude’ means?
“Mag-aral kang mabuti” seems to be part of a daily script used by old people when they want to share words of wisdom. The next line would follow: “Huwag ka muna magbo-boyfriend.” These lines function as fillers in situations when you can’t find anything else to say. “Mag-aral kang mabuti” is equivalent to “Kumusta ka na?” Anyway, the bottom line is not to take this advice seriously.
I have received this advice from grown-ups since the day I started going to school. When I was still a student, I found it irritating. My ears ached when I heard this overly used advice: “Mag-aral kang mabuti.” I was not an exceptional student but I was a good student, who prepared for exams, passed my requirements, and made my homework. It annoyed me a lot because I knew I did study hard. It sounded as if it was an insincere remark from people who did not know my study habits or my educational background. They should have known that my eye bags needed liposuction and I almost converted the school library into my bedroom.
Looking back, I wish I did not study hard. I could have enjoyed family reunions, extended vacations, and hang-out with friends. Because I took everybody’s advice to study hard, I felt guilty of having valid reasons to be absent in class. I even insisted on going to school even if the radio announced that there was a typhoon coming. When I was traveling during summer break, my parents gave me a choice to go back to school on time or not. But like I said, my guilt won in every decision making process I made. When I was suffering from mumps, I worried a lot of a week-off in class. Then again, I was playing the role of a good student. I read my textbooks during my absence with the fear that I might not be able to catch up. To my surprise, I found out that I was way ahead from my classmates. I got very high grades. My mumps pushed me to go for unnecessary effort in my studies when I could have watched TV the whole week and have had afternoon naps.
As the years went by, I became less devoted with my studies though the word of old folks, “Mag-aral kang mabuti,” was still haunting me. When I was a freshie in college, the pressure to prove my worth drove me to work hard in school. I was always present in class. I spent hours just to study for a 10-item quiz. The following years were quite different. College campus encouraged me to experiment beyond the four corners of a classroom. I took multiple roles: a student, a ghost writer, a personal assistant and a tutor. On my fourth year in college, I cut classes. I studied only the night before my exam. In worst situations, I only browse my notes a few hours before my exam. I justify that you can get a good grade even if you don’t study hard. The sad truth is sometimes you allot hours for your exam yet you get the same grade with your classmate who partied all night, got drunk and slept during the exam. It does not mean that you are studious; you earn a high mark in your class card.
My campus life is now over. I regret giving a big portion of my life in studying. When you apply for a job, they don’t look at your transcript of records. They don’t care if you were the class valedictorian in high school. Graduating with honors in college might be a plus but not a big factor. They check if you have the skills and personality for the job. Not only that, you have to take IQ exams even if you have high grades. On a larger scope, education does not solve a lot of things in life. There are a lot of fresh graduates seeking for employment. You can take masters degree yet find yourself alone and unhappy.
If you are young, the best way to live life is to savor each moment. If I get to bumped into a college freshie, I will tell her: “Huwag kang mag-aral na mabuti. ”