“For you to know yourself, you must lose it in other people.” This short but profound quote led me to a realization of what state I was in: lost. I was lost. I realized that because I was in a constant urge to know more about myself. What people think defines me is not what I think I am. When people say ‘You’re a good kid!’ a hint of doubt goes through me. When people ask me to describe who I am in general, I just couldn’t find a word to define who I am. Being unpredictable is not enough. Being turbulent is not enough. Knowing who I am, alone, is not enough. Philosophy taught that for me to know who I really am, I have to go out of my comfort zone, isolation, and take the risk for me to know who I am. I have to socialize within communities for me to discover more about myself.

“If you are not intentional with your choices, other people will choose for you”, a quote from our lesson, was my unconscious’ motto. I grew up not knowing how to choose what I actually want. If I ever do, I always do not have the courage to fight for it, which is why I also lose in debates. I always wanted to have a good relationship with people, which is why I don’t delve into fights; I keep my stand only to myself and let other’s opinions go further. I was not free. There’s this inner voice inside me that longs to be heard but just couldn’t speak out because of fear that my ideas are, and will never be good enough. My life became a cycle of speaking out, being rejected, isolating myself, going into a realization, and speaking out again. It’s like going in and out of a jail.

There were many times that I felt free, and I think the last time was last year, when I transferred to this school. I’ve been in my previous school for 4 years, only coming home during the weekends (I lived in the dormitory). Though I somewhat felt free there since I was far from my parents, I have always felt a lack, a deep, hidden desire, and I think, now, that that is for me to know who I really am. I couldn’t be myself much in my previous school, especially since it became my masks’ comfort zone, and multiple masks have been worn there because of this invisible standard placed there. If you aren’t smart, you become mediocre. If you don’t have multiple talents, you will not be recognized. If you fall in love, the spotlight falls on you. I was insecure, because someone was always better than me. It felt like I fell into a jail of intense pressure to stand out, to be recognized. I was insecure. My self-esteem was so low. I never felt that I will be enough, probably because of my parents’ expectations, my classmates’ standards, and the society’s criteria. I depend too much on people.

When the school year was soon to be over, we were asked to decide if we would stay in that school, or if we would leave. My parents let me have the decision. When I talked to my friends, they were hesitating, mostly because there were a lot of memories in our school (most of us lived in the dormitory so we were together till the evening). We decided not to leave. Personally, I didn’t want to because I have no chosen school. Transferring passed my mind, but the thought of going out there, the thought of a new environment, new faces, and a new style of learning was scary. I decided to stay. Recognition of completers came and I was teasing those who were about to transfer that I would stay, that I would get to ‘enjoy’ the school for another year.

I was secretly praying to God for His will, because I always believed that letting Him hold the steering wheel leads me to what’s best for my life. Summer came and I started to search for schools, praying for each. I had five schools in mind (I think), but, financially, we couldn’t attain it. I gave up, or so I thought.

God had a different plan, far more than I have ever imagined.

The last week of May came and I went to this camp entitled ‘Game Over’. There, I met someone who was studying in TUMCSI. TU was in my choices, as well, but it was not in the top 3 unlike my desire to study in the 2 schools I had in mind. If I have to rank it, it would be on the top 5, and I only had 5 schools in mind. I personally thought that that would be the sign, but I kept on praying anyway. I talked to my parents about it and they approved of it, since my brother also studied here and they said that the standard of education here was better than my previous school. I submitted an application form (it was honestly because I just want to try and see if I could be accepted), and surprisingly there was no entrance exam. I could be immediately accepted. Requirements were passed, until a week before June, I became an official student of TUMCSI.

Anxiety attacked me the first day. I suddenly regretted transferring. The new faces didn’t seem friendly. The teachers seemed like terrors. I don’t want to stay any longer. After the orientation, I travelled to my previous school, half-crying because I felt like I made a big mistake. I didn’t realize that I prayed for this step in my life. It was honestly a huge step for me. Going out of my comfort zone, my previous school, led me to this school of new and different faces, each with their unique personalities. It was scary, but excitement replaced it afterwards.

The subject Personal Development made a huge impact on the way I think about life. I had a ton of realizations as well, and the interactions led me to socialize with my classmates. The Oral Communications helped me a lot too, since it required a lot of speaking. I had to talk to my classmates, ask questions, and hear what they think about. The first time I made a speech, it was scary. My idea had to be heard out, and I was scared that they would not approve of it.

But they did. They even clapped at my speech. I somehow felt a sense of satisfaction, not because I got recognized (or maybe it was unconsciously), but because my idea was heard out, and they were fine with it. I felt free because the deep hidden desire inside me to let my idea be heard out was finally out. When I thought my ideas were worthless, the new faces and different personalities proved to me that my ideas are valuable.

Personally, it felt like I was living in a house alone, with windows closed, with no one to be with. I can go naked without anyone criticizing about my body, and I felt free, but trapped at the same time. It works like that, except that it’s in front of people. In my case, that’s what freedom for me felt like. This school made me feel like I exist, that I am living, that I find it hard when it comes to academics, that when I talk to this particular person with this kind of personality, I can sense the way I react. There were not much standards unlike before. It was my kind of freedom.

I heard a quote in a TED Talk that when you speak in front of people, you could try to imagine them naked to remove the fear in you. It’s funny, yes, but when we talk in front of people, it’s like being naked too. It’s like opening up yourself to other people, as you share your thoughts. It’s like removing the clothes, the masks you have on, but in front of other people. It’s scary, yes, but after it all, you’d be surprised to see some, if not all, accept you, and possibly, you could see similarities. Only then would you be able to feel like you belong.