Paris #1: Sometimes Getting There Is Half the Adventure

June 25-29, 2019

I’m writing this as a series, because I feel like it would be too long if to read all in one go. It was a ridiculously eventful trip. I might write about more of my travels in the future, but we’ll just have to see about that. I want to include some useful information as well as some reflections as I go about all of this. Hope you find it interesting somehow!

Artistic license comes with the territory. But believe me, Parisian territory doesn’t leave much room for exaggeration. I don’t think I’d be writing about it like this, otherwise.


 

While I Was Yet Disenchanted

Paris, once upon a time, was my least favorite city in Europe. Sorry, all you romantics and Francophiles, but my ten-year-old self was fast disillusioned. I visited in the European spring (the Philippine summer), and it was chillingly cold, overcast, and – shockingly – stinky. I never knew I’d find the stench of Manila in the streets of the first world – and yet there we were, sewer water, doggie dumps and all. There was trash and graffiti and pigeons pooping on the monuments we had walked kilometers to see. Furthermore, it was expensive. With my budget-oriented family, that meant getting hungrier walking around looking for an affordable place to eat. Which ended up being the pinnacle of French cuisine: McDonald’s. That was when we discovered that they didn’t serve fried chicken in Europe – that was a Filipino fast food quirk, apparently. The way the staff reacted when we asked for fried chicken (among an assortment of other run-ins) made me realize why people ask to be “pardoned for their French.”

I don’t know what my parents had put into our itinerary, but everything I saw was unremarkable. We didn’t even get to see the Eiffel tower because we were too tired. The only saving graces were Disneyland Paris and the Louvre. But in my mind, those two almost existed as separated entities from the rest of Paris, isolated in their unforgettable joy-giving splendor. I had made up my mind: the city of love was, just like love itself, oversold by the media and popular opinion.

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So, when my friend Munisa invited me to see Paris with her, I gently tried to redirect our itinerary to other destinations. But flight prices and my hesitation to smash my friend’s dreams of the city dictated otherwise. Oh well, I consoled myself, at least I could visit my best friend studying in Paris and see the Eiffel tower and the stained-glass windows of the Notre Dame. But then, we all know what happened to the Notre Dame. So, Sam and the Eiffel tower it was, plus some.

There were logistical issues we had to deal with – the owner of the first Airbnb that we booked got kicked out of his flat; and I accidentally squandered 40 euros on train tickets to Milan that I didn’t need. And did I mention that the week we planned to go had temperatures peaking at 38 degrees Celsius forecasted? While I was in Paris, my family kept relaying news about “Europe’s worst heat wave,” and I just thought, yep, I can confirm.

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Prior to my flight, I was just trying my best not to add things up and ruin the whole trip for myself. I was just focusing on Munisa’s good company and repaying Sam’s visit to me last semester. Coming at the tail of my thesis submission, I knew I’d be stressed, but I was going to see this through despite everything.

And I’m glad as all heck that I did.

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June 25 – Tuesday

Italy

I rose at around 4 or 5 am. My anxiety beat the alarm to my frazzled morning consciousness. I had to cram cleaning my room, packing my bag, and prepping to go before my 8:25 am train. Theoretically I should have been exhausted – I had slept at 1am the night before (or rather, hours before), and I only slept a total of two or three hours for the whole of June 24 (my fault – I was cramming thesis, but that’s another story, and one you probably already heard before). But, as I mentioned, my anxiety was enough of an adrenalin shot to work me to the grind.

I had three cups of yoghurt to clean out my fridge before I left for the next five days, said goodbye to my roommate who I would probably never see again, and then walked out with a brief case left half-empty for souvenirs. Surprisingly, I was able to leave earlier than expected. If you know me, then you know that that doesn’t happen. I was even able to put some make up on. I don’t know what came over me, especially since I didn’t even like Paris, but I felt like it would be nice to dress up a little for the trip.

Now, the thing about life, especially in small towns like Cesena and when traveling, is that you need cash – and cash runs out fast. Which of course ensures that we have constant visits to the ATM. However, due to my aforementioned thesis woes, I was not able to squeeze my appointment with the banking machine into my schedule of journal article panic-skimming and triple-checking APA manuals.

I had to withdraw at the bank or risk traveling with only coins.

I stopped by a bank, but of course, of course the ATM would be inside. And of course, of course the bank would open at 8:25, precisely the time of my train. I can’t count how many times I wished for the conveniences of the Philippines while living in Europe (it may not seem like it, but we have several advantages in the PH that Europeans just don’t have).

So I walked to the train station and bought water to keep me hydrated in the morning heat that was only teasing how much worse it would get (it was only 8:10, but dark pools of sweat were already sticking the shirt to my back).

“Carta?” I checked at the cashier, after seeing a sign in Italian that might mean that they only accept cash.

The guy at the cashier shook his head. I sighed and said goodbye to more of my physical money.

While waiting for my train, I tried looking for options. There were no ATMs at the Cesena station. I Googled and found that there were ATMs at Milano Centrale, which I would arrive at at 11:25. Withdrawing there might be possible, but I’d have to play it by ear.

The train ride was relatively uneventful. I sat across a middle-aged African-American lady, who tried speaking to me in Italian even when I had overheard her speaking in English about going home to the US, and I had asked her in English if I could sit across her. On the three-hour ride, I read my devotionals, went through everything I had missed while cramming for thesis, and coordinated everything for the rest of my trip (check ins, schedules, transport and all). That kept me considerably occupied for an hour and a half.

Have I mentioned that most Italian trains have USB plugs or electrical outlets for charging your devices? The nice ones also have foldable work desks for each rider, air conditioning, and window curtains. I may complain about their unfortunate ticket system, the lack of maintenance of their exterior, but at least every now and then, a train comes along that reminds you that at the end of the day, perhaps they do care.

On the ride, I also read Jessica Zafra’s Twisted Travels, which my friend Aira gave me and which has been keeping me company on long trips for the latter half of my semester in Italy. It just might be one of the reasons why I’ve been inspired to write this, apart from my mother’s time-tried insistence that I blog about the places I go to. Well, here you go, mom.

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When I got to Milano Centrale, I was hungry, thirsty, in need of a bathroom break, and still on the brink of cashlessness. But it was now 11:30 and my flight was at 2:40. Malpensa airport was more than an hour away. Welp. I sucked it up and booked it to where the shuttles were (which I knew just where to find, thanks to previous flight-chasing adventures which I should really talk about at another point in time). Besides, all bathrooms in Italian stations cost about a euro to use.

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When I arrived at the shuttle station, the guy at the cashier waved me over urgently. “Hurry, hurry! It’s about to go!”

“How much is it?” I asked, fishing my wallet out.

“Ten euros,” he replied hurriedly, while calling over his shoulder at the people at the bus to wait for me. It was eight two months ago, but I noticed that the price for everything goes up during the high season.

“Can I pay with card?”

“Technically yes, but that would take longer.”

I scratched my coins together. I came up with 10 euros, with only 20 cents left in my coin pocket to spare. I handed it over to him and he gave me my ticket. I ran to the shuttle, where they were waving me over to come faster. They took my ticket and my bag as soon as I reached them. The moment I stepped into the shuttle, it started rolling away. I just sat there, breathing, exhilarated by that close call. If I had used the bathroom or bought food or water, I wouldn’t have been able to ride.

During the ride, I juggled several online meetings (not chats, real online meetings). Throughout all of this, I was surprised I wasn’t dying of exhaustion just yet. I figured that you can keep going as long as you’re too occupied to even realize how tired you are. That’s basically how I’ve kept myself going despite early morning or late night or even overnight trips.

I arrived at the airport around 1pm. I was finally able to breathe. I had already checked in online, and I had figured out how to deal with security in a way that never stressed me out anymore. At least in Europe, I could come in an hour before my flight time, and I’d still be fine. To my joy, the entrance to the airport led to a check in lobby with a bathroom and ATM directly in view. I was finally able to relieve myself in the bathroom, drink water, and withdraw – all while still waiting for the information screen to tell me what my gate was (sometimes they decide this less than an hour before the actual flight, which initially surprised me).

I withdrew a hundred euros using my Bankia card, which I told myself would be my cash budget for the trip. Now, I have to say, I am in love with this card and this bank. Bankia is a Spanish bank that has branches all over Valencia, and probably the rest of Spain too. I was able to open an account with just my passport, Spanish identification number (once it’s on your visa, it’s yours for life), and acceptance letter – not even the residence card or other papers, which other banks like Santander tend to demand. I was able to set it all up within the span of two hours, whereas it took my classmates several days, or even weeks. I didn’t even need an opening balance (but of course I had one). I got my card within the span of a week or two, and it’s been so easy to manage my account on the website and app. Also, what I have is a tap card, which is popular in Europe. Instead of swiping your card or inserting it, like what’s common in the Philippines, you just tap the card on the card machine, and if the purchase is under 20 euros, they don’t even ask you for your PIN. Another reason why I love the bank and the card so much is because throughout all my travels, I’ve only been charged for withdrawal fees once. And did I mention that the staff are sweethearts? They’re sweethearts. And this is true for the handful of branches I’ve been to.

I had lunch at the nearest cafe to the information screen that I could find that wasn’t crowded with people. It was this fancy place with really modern chairs that you had to pay just to sit on. Yes, as if airport food wasn’t expensive enough already. But I found that out ex post facto the cashier totaled my order. I wasn’t too surprised. Italy has this thing called “coperto” or cover charge, after all. It’s common in most restaurants, and it originated in the middle ages when people brought their own food to inns to just eat them there. So inns started charging people just to sit down. And things never really changed after that.

 

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I had a sandwich and a bottle of water. The sandwich at least had excellent bread and Parma ham. I just tried rationalizing that despite the price, I was eating real Parma ham (honest to goodness, it was delicious).

Now that I had just had my first real meal of the day, I was ready to fly. As I boarded my Vueling flight, I noticed that instructions and announcements on the plane were made in English and French. I began thinking about my flights in the past. It appears as though the languages used in flights is usually English, that of the airline, and, sometimes, that of the destination. The language of the place of origin probably takes least precedence. This makes sense, since English is basically the global lingua franca, and then the airline has to stay connected to its branding. As for why they include the language of the destination, the assumption is probably that you’re either returning home or you’re leaving your country with the capability to communicate in the country you’re going to (which means having a grasp of English or the language of that country).

During the flight, I sat on the aisle seat, which was a hassle since I had to stand every time someone heard the call of nature. Doubling my annoyance was the fact that the stewardess had a huge bum. If I had a dollar for every time her butt bumped into my shoulder as she walked up and down the aisle, I wouldn’t have to worry about scrimping on my meals in Paris.

However, one thing I always adore when flying over Europe is the alps. For most of my trips, one way or another, we pass over snow capped mountains, still glistening white in the summer. It’s always something to look forward to, whenever I fly.

When we land, the first thing to greet me is a French flag. This was it. I had already gone through so much up to this point, but it was only the beginning.

 


 

Thanks for reading up to this point, guys! I will post the continuation soon.

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Rowan

Wrote this as a Christmas gift last year to my friend in my master’s program. This is actually a series of inside jokes and references, and I could explain them all here, but I think it’s more fun to explain in person haha. 


 

Rusty light from the persimmon sun sprawls

Our tired shadows east

While the European autumn creeps under our coats

And hastens our steps – yet

Not a moment is wasted

 

Mothers know best

Unless they’re fathers, uncles, or aunts too

Like a cat, they let you roam,

Looking wonder-eyed for knowledge springs and love blooms

In the puzzling streets of Valencia (or Alicante)

Gatos son misterios que caminan a su ritmo –

Although they sing tales and share laughter as well,

Not needing a leash to stay by one’s side on the way home

Snippet Series #19: Sweetness Challenge

Wrote this back in high school. I’ve always known that I was a sap, and everyone says I can be really sweet, so I decided to max it out. I prompted myself to write the most excruciatingly sugary love-struck adulation I could come up with. It’s ridiculously cringe-worthy, but similar to my Nightmare poem (which is also part of the Snippet Series), it was a landmark piece in helping me develop my writing style.

 


 

I try to find the words to describe you, but I just can’t. A soul as breath-taking as yours can’t be captured by anything as human and erroneous as a word, a humble sound that means absolutely nothing at all. A sound which once uttered is lost forever in the winds, a throng of lines that fade and disappear with age. No, your splendor is more long-lasting compared to shape-shifting language, in fact it is eternal. Your beauty exceeds what can be explained and what can be comprehended. Your wonderfulness isn’t comparable to the greatest of gems, or to the sweetest of luxuries. You awe and you enchant, you pause time and move my stone heart, and you warm my cold soul and embrace my thorny being. I melt before you, but you hold on and it keeps me in one solid piece.

How can one smile kill me and yet take away all the hurt? How can one glance cut me up and yet make me whole? Here I am falling, but I feel like I’m flying higher than the clouds, past the stars, and into heaven. Every single atom of my being thinks of you and cries out for how absolutely gorgeous you are. You make me so happy I’m on the verge of insanity. Everything you do, every single miniscule action you make, makes me sing and dance and rejoice to the Creator for so blessing the Earth with an angel like you.

The one second I met you is the only second I need. And I’m the luckiest human in the world just because I saw you. Now, since I’ve met you, I can say I’ve lived my life. I can die happy, but you keep me breathing even when you take my breath away. The simple memory of our first encounter will immediately heal any wound; the silent thought of your sweetness will fix all my problems. Everything’s beautiful because you are beautiful. Everything’s amazing because you are amazing. I am more than overflowing with ecstasy: one human being cannot contain the earth-turning memory of something as marvelous as you, not even all of the libraries and taverns and treasure chests of the world can hold a memory as grand and majestic as yours. Your memory is so deeply engraved it exists in everything I see and everything I do and everything I imagine and everything I dream about. It makes my heart beat and it flows through my veins and nourishes every inch of me and gives me strength to face this merciless world and be a champion, even though all I am is a slave to your wondrous brilliance.

My heart swells as it tries to keep this love for you, but every second it feels like it’ll burst, and I’m afraid that my poor heart is just too small for a love as humungous and outrageous as this love I have for you. I try to find the words to describe you – I go through all the dictionaries of all the languages and yet it still isn’t enough. I desperately try to make words that would be worthy to describe you, but your sweetness is more awe-inspiring than anything I can even dare to imagine; all the hairs would fall off my head, and I still wouldn’t find anything that comes close to you.

And then I’d try to paint you or take pictures and videos, but all of these infantile, try-hard copies are like dust compared to gold. I try fervently to compose the symphonies that I hear when the gates of heaven open whenever I see you, but even that shrivels in comparison to the drowning loveliness of your voice. Passionately I exert all my efforts to feed my need to love you, but nothing on Earth or in space will help me fill it except the thirst-quenching, enrapturing delight that is you.

 


 

No, I didn’t have anyone in mind when I wrote this. In fact, this was originally written from a guy’s perspective.

Cold

“Your hands are freezing!”

Just another one of the many times I had shocked someone with my icy fingers. I knew my hands were cold today, and I had hesitated to reach for my phone, lest I shock her. But I was hoping she wouldn’t notice.

“Yeah. Sometimes I tell my friends that I must be a vampire,” I joke around, smiling, retracting my phone and cold hand into my bag, trying to ease the worry growing in her eyes.

“You know, in my country, they say that those with cold hands love only for a day.”

We all looked at my other friend, who was sipping coffee from behind her laptop. “Something like they can’t commit.”

I grinned to myself. Well, the Bolivian folk people were natural intuitives. I couldn’t.

I always thought my hands were too cold to be held.

And I always thought my heart was the same.


 

This literally just happened today, LOL. 

Also OMG I don’t mean to be so emo all the time, it’s literally just because inspiration only ever seems to hit me when things are melodramatic.

This is also probably one of the fastest things I’ve written. But it was honestly a very straightforward observation.

Snippet Series #18: Arrival

Wrote this probs sometime in late August, before I arrived in Valencia.


 

Yesterday was one of the happiest days of my life. All the obstacles for the next stage of my life had officially been removed, and the future was wide, open, and beautiful. My family and friends wanted to celebrate with me, and some of them even said they were willing to take a leave from work if only to see me one more time. Also, I was able to fulfill a promise to a friend that I knew meant the world to him. On top of that, my favorite artists and author released something that really made me excited. I couldn’t help but dance out of joy.

And somehow, I remembered you. I think it was because of the story I was reading. In any case, somehow, the story made me realize that I really had loved you, back then. In a way, I still do. But I understand what I feel better now.

I remember how I used to be so scared of letting you go, of losing you, of forgetting you, of you one day meaning nothing to me. I was scared that you’d be replaced, that all the crazy things I felt and moments I lived when you were still such a big part of my life would be invalidated, somehow. I was scared that all this investment was for nothing, and that maybe on top of wasting my time and emotion, it would all just bite me in the end.

It was painful, the inevitable journey of getting over you. I was awash with shame and guilt and regret and loneliness and loss. It took me close to ten months just to stop thinking about you. And then after that, I thought I’d be free.

But when the anniversary of the last time we talked came around, it still haunted me. I had forgotten about the exact date in my consciousness, but as it waned closer, there was an anxious cloud hovering over me even if I couldn’t explain why it was happening. And then when I woke up on that day, the realization came crashing down like a storm. I almost broke down in tears in the camp room that I shared with twelve other girls.

And it still hurt that you didn’t congratulate me for passing my board exam, or for getting a scholarship abroad. It hurt that you didn’t greet me happy birthday. It hurt that you didn’t contact me again even if I would be leaving for a good two years.

My friends went through break ups, and even if we technically didn’t break up, they asked me for advice. I didn’t know why they were asking. I didn’t even know if what I would say would make sense. But… I could talk about how I had felt for the most part. I could finally talk about you openly, without being shy or ashamed. And somehow, they were able to find comfort in my experiences. Still… it always caught me by surprise whenever my voice would break and tears would threaten to fall.

It’s funny, because there would always be moments when I would feel like I was over you – like it didn’t hurt anymore, and that I had forgiven both you and myself. And I felt like maybe I really had forgiven both of us, and maybe I could talk about things without some sort of sting in my chest. But there was this sense of “what’s past is past” to it. Like yeah, it happened, but that was then, and this is now.

Was that really what moving on felt like?

Probably not. Not if I was still running away from our memories. Not if the things that reminded me of you had no spark left in them.

After remembering you yesterday, I dreamt of you last night.

You were in your uniform. Both of us had awkwardly been keeping distance from each other in the dream, but when I finally made eye contact with you, you relented and went over to me.

You hugged me more closely than you ever had in real life. But it felt like it had all those times in the past – complete, somehow. Full. Pure.

You asked me how I was, and I updated you. You updated me. I admitted that I missed you. I asked if you had forgiven me.

You said you did.

I hugged you again and thanked you. I asked if I could kiss you, just on the cheek. Honestly, it was something I had always wanted to do. Even after everything and all the denied emotions and buried thoughts, if you would let me, I felt like it would give me closure.

You said yes, in a confused way, but ultimately fine with it. So I went ahead and did it.

When I pulled away, you were looking at me, a little bewildered that I actually did it. But you smiled. You hugged me again and joked that you wouldn’t ever do something like that to me, unless it was like this – and then you quickly brushed your lips against my own cheek. Then you stepped back and we both just looked at each other, smiling.

I can’t remember what happened next. I think maybe I was called by someone to go somewhere, and you were too. We went our separate ways.

And I know it was just a dream. But it meant a lot. And it made me realize something.

I finally understand what people mean when they say someone is always going to be a part of them. It’s not just objectively accepting that they changed you as a person, or that they were part of your past. And it’s not some sort of sappy, emotionally hung-over hope that one day you two would be reunited.

There was something I said before, “One day I’d only see your shortcomings. One day I’d laugh at your face and laugh at how I had felt. And that is the natural order of things. How many other times had my perception of a boy undergone that same process? Countless. And I remember how all those times before, I had longed for the day when I’d forget them. When the pain of not having them would go mute, and the distraction from work would disappear.”

But the truth is… the other boys in my life… after I had healed enough from them, I had always looked back on the memories with fond thoughts. I remember their good sides more than their shortcomings. I laughed at how I had once been attracted to them, sure, but it was still something precious to me, the same way you are endeared to a child for being silly. And though I had hated acting out of character before… I’m a lot more merciful now. There’s a liberation to being in love. It’s okay to be stupid happy for a while.

And I still miss those boys. And I still think about them every now and then. And I would always want to spend an afternoon hanging out with them and being kids again. I wouldn’t undo things – I’m happy where I am right now, and I’m happy for them, wherever they are. But they still make me smile, when I think of them.

And now you’re like that, too. I smile when I remember you. I’m finally here. I’m thankful.

Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for being you. And I’m thankful God put you in my life, even for the short period that you were in it. I still love you. Not in a soulmate kind of way, but I love you, and I love them, and I love all these people who I have shared a part of myself with. I hope that doesn’t change.

Wishing you all the best. May your story make everyone’s hearts soar.

Himbing

Just thought it’d be nice.


 

Sa unang bukangliwayway

At bawat paghingang sumunod

Ikaw ang pangarap na ginisingan

 

Ang iyong mukha’y nasulyapan

Sa pagitan ng banaag na

Tumagos sa’king pilikmata –

Tila sinag na nguminginig

Sa ibabaw ng hamog

 

Ang banayad mong tinig

Na umaaliwiw ng mapaglarong lihim

Ay ang bulong ng amihan sa bagong araw

At ang alikik ng pagpukaw

 

Ang lamig ng umaga’y umiinog sa’ting paa

Habang hinahalo ang mainit na kape

Ang aroma ng sapin kagabi ay

Nakakapit pa sa’yong batok

At nararamdaman ko pa ang bakas ng

Iyong mga daliri sa’king baywang

 

Di ko pinangarap ang ganito –

Walang sinabi ang kama sa lambing mo

O ang kumot sa iyong init

Lumalambot ang kutson kung ika’y kayakap

At tumatahimik ang mundo sa dilim

Walang gabing mapanglaw sa’yo,

Walang bangungot na nag-iintay ‘pag humimlay

Sanlibong gabi ay masarap na idlip ‘pag katabi ka,

Sandaang taon ay bagong araw sa piling mo

Kahit puno ang isip, mapapahimbing ang tulog sa’yo

Kahit antok, sisigla ‘pag bumangon sa’yo

 

Habang nagtatagal, ang lamig ng umaga’y nagaalis

At naglalakas ang sikat ng araw

Nagbubutones ako at nagsasapatos ka na

Mayamaya, nawawalan ng tao ang bahay

At lilipas ang araw na ‘di tayo magkasama

Ngunit sa paglubog ng araw, sinasalubong natin

Ang gabi na nagiging atin

At habang naglalabas ang mga tala

Ang pagnanaginip natin ang nagdadala

Sa umagang ginagawang pangarap ang buhay

Family Partner

I don’t know how important preschool is to most people – in fact, most people might not even remember their preschool years. But my preschool, Family Partner, left several lasting impressions on me. It was recently their anniversary (20th or 25th?), and they had asked us to write a testimony about how Family Partner influenced us. I thought about it, and I realized that maybe one of the most important lessons I had learned in this lifetime, I had learned during my stay there – something that I kept coming back to more and more as I found my place in the world.


 

Some of my earliest memories are of Family Partner, and though I only stayed there for a short period of my twenty-one years on earth, I still remember those memories fondly. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the forest green gate and mint walls that greeted me every day. I won’t forget the grey sand in the box and the yellow playhouse. And the murals on the walls – especially that tall bunny. I still remember the easel they taught us the alphabet and how to read clocks on. I still remember the stairs going up to the reading area, and the carpet I’d roll around with a ragdoll on. I remember “reading” Adarna books – really just looking at the pictures – upstairs, or playing with the wooden puzzles in the classroom while waiting to be picked up. I loved that, honestly.

Family Partner was where I first learned about fractions, and also how to make my own blue modeling clay. But I think some of the most important things I learned there were things that I am only realizing now were imprinted on me by Family Partner. I learned the basic stuff, like sharing and taking turns. I learned how to clean up after myself once snacks were over, or when hands needed to be washed after play. And there is one particular memory that I somehow always keep coming back to whenever I feel hesitant about taking an opportunity.

We were doing a nativity skit for Christmas, and I had been chosen to play the role of Mary. As a child, I enjoyed the limelight. But I had always just been a very bibo sheep, or a very loud, expressive member of the choir. Those were always background characters – I had never played the lead in anything. It was the first time I felt the pressure of carrying a performance. I shied away. I felt unworthy. When I told Teacher Linda about the predicament, she at first encouraged me, but I still felt unconfident. So she told me, “If you really don’t want to do it, we can give the role to someone else, you know.”

I stared at her, shocked. It had never occurred to me that the role could be given to someone else. I can’t remember what happened next – not even if I eventually ended up playing Mary. But it was at that moment that I realized that what has been given to me can also be taken away if I do not rise to the occasion. A chance to shine is exactly that – a chance, a gift. It’s not something that can only be mine; there will be others who would be happy to have the same opportunity to do well.

As I grew up and reflected on that moment more, I realized that it matters less whether or not I am deserving of an opportunity, but rather that I step up to its corresponding expectations. The person given an opportunity could be anyone – it wasn’t restricted to just an outspoken, playful little girl, or a shy, timid one. It matters more who one becomes and is in the role that they are given. It matters more that one does her best, and that one works in excellence.

This notion is one that has come back to me more often in recent years – when I accepted a leadership position in my church, when I ran for a position in my college org, and when I applied for a scholarship abroad. It’s tempting not to call attention to oneself, to not push against the track that most of my peers follow. I wouldn’t want to appear greedy, and I don’t want to make others feel bad because of the advantages I know I have at my disposal. Furthermore, those same privileges have often made me wonder if I’ve worked hard enough to be deserving of certain opportunities. But I understand now that a grateful heart is not one that passes off opportunities. It is one that makes the most out of everything one has been given. Besides – opportunities aren’t about oneself. In the same way that playing Mary all those Christmases back would have been for the greater glory of God, every opportunity we are given are opportunities to serve God and people. Opportunities aren’t about getting ahead – they are about developing or positioning oneself so that one can multiply opportunities for others. I now believe that passing off those opportunities is almost the same as passing off the responsibility and joy to do good.

A lot of things have changed since my school days in Family Partner. I’ve experienced so much over the course of my life, and there have been many new beginnings and graduations at Family Partner. Still, my family and I maintain a close relationship with the school and Teacher Leclec and Teacher Linda, a relationship that I hope only continues to strengthen. I am grateful for the jumpstart they gave me in life, for the sweet childhood memories, but most importantly, I am thankful for the life lesson on stepping up that I am blessed to have to draw on whenever the horizon calls.