ALL WOMEN / self assurance / Stories that inspire / women writers

The Other Side of the Hourglass

hourglass-time-hours-sand-39396by Caitlin Young

LIKE MANY other high school girls before me, I viewed the concept of college with an hourglass mentality. The sand seems to shift slowly at first, so you take your own sweet time getting ready. Gradually, however, you begin to slip—while the sand continues to trickle down, only more quickly now. Soon, a gaping hole appears. This is your quicksand, and you need to prepare as fast as you can so you don’t fall through. But we all know how it ends: all the sand plummets, and you turn the hourglass upside down to begin a new time frame, a different era.

It’s the same thing with life after high school—everything goes topsy-turvy after the hits that initially came to you at a glacial pace allowed you to think you could dawdle. Once you realize they’re increasing at a rampant rate, you fall rock-bottom to an unfamiliar place, where you’re left with no choice but to start all over again.

Growing up, I can honestly say that I was never much one for risk-taking. Sometimes, my mom would even joke about how long she’s been waiting for my so-called “rebel phase.” To be honest? I don’t know myself. I’ve always prided myself on my natural ability to be cautious, to make the right decisions; now, however, I feel that what I may have once considered an asset may have been holding me back.

It’s hard to believe that high school is over, that I’ve finally broken free of the small and stressful—yet ultimately safe—bubble that is Immaculate Conception Academy. I thought that I would be overjoyed in leaving it. I was so right…and yet so wrong. ICA has been my home for thirteen years; it’s not easy to let go of that kind of familiarity. I was the typical consistent honors student who became part of her school newspaper’s editorial board. I was focused, but not as driven as I should have been. I didn’t take many of the opportunities at hand, or manage to shine under the spotlight—which I do regret now.

Looking back at the lengths I’ve gone throughout the years to get into a good college—from adding extracurriculars to my résumé to studying for college entrance tests —makes me realize that perhaps, I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing. I stuck with being sure; I passed all the colleges I applied for and got into all my first-choice courses only to realize that preparing is the easy part. In truth, the hardest choice is deciding on what you want to do after high school.

As a relatively vigilant person, I wanted to do something different. Something that was a little unexpected, but not too crazy. Something that was brand-new yet still true to who I was. I wanted to push myself to my limits, as being an ICAn has boxed me into a certain stereotype—that we are sheltered and spoiled, not used to thinking beyond what lies ahead. Most ICA alumnae have gone to Ateneo—which, thankfully, is my dream school—and usually take up Management Engineering (ME). It was typical and safe, but I didn’t want to conform to a so-called prestigious maths course that many others before me had chosen. I wanted to forge my own path while remaining true to myself. So instead, I chose the ultimately risky course of Management Honors (MGT-H).

I’ve always wanted to follow my father’s footsteps and be a businesswoman, and MGT-H’s innovative graduates are known to do just that. I feel that a challenging business course in Ateneo—a university peppered with food stands and goods stalls set up by its own student entrepreneurs—is a wonderful environment for me to learn the basic ropes of the corporate world.

MGT-H, much like ME, is also under Ateneo’s School of Management. It’s not as math-heavy as ME, but it’s just as formidable. What distinguishes it from other courses like regular Management (MGT) is the fact that it has a higher GPA requirement, thus heightening the risks of people getting demoted from it to regular MGT. Getting into MGT-H is a challenge in itself as you need to place in the top 5 to 10% of the Ateneo College Entrance Test. As such, only a few people graduate from MGT-H each year, with perhaps less than 20 people in the entire course.

I know that the road to graduating MGT-H will not be easy. It has the highest mortality rate in Ateneo. It’s not as popular or as chock-filled with ICAns. But I didn’t want to pick a course just because everyone else was choosing it, or because I know I’ll see several schoolmates there. I didn’t want a repeat of my high school life. That’s why I went with a course that’s altogether unique yet useful at the same time. It’s not an easy way out, nor is it filled with complicated lessons that I will never use. Despite my initial fear of trying something new, I sincerely believe that I’m more afraid of being ordinary, of not being able to forge my own path.

With all that, I can honestly say that I know that my future is bright. It’s not going to be simple, but I’m up for the challenge. I’d be lying if I say that I’m not scared of hard lessons, foreign environments, and new people. But then, I’m ready to rediscover myself, to put myself out there after years of following the safe route. I’m willing to work hard, to meet new people, and to create my own successful journey. So here’s to not being afraid of tipping the other side of the hourglass and starting over. Here’s to me finally being able to shine. Frankly, I’m looking forward to it.

 

Caitlin Young is an incoming freshman at the Ateneo De Manila University. She worked as an intern at candymag.com while waiting for school to start.

 

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