Life Update: I went back to uni. For real this time.

We all have them, those moments where we ask ourselves a question, what if? What if I had done this instead of that? What if I had taken a different career path?

I’ve given these questions some thought for a while. One particular thought that lingered was, “What if I had chosen to stay in university and actually finished my degree on time? What if the outcome of that chosen path was actually better than now?

But, it’s not like the years have been unkind. Looking back, I think life was not too cruel to me. Despite some unfortunate events in the past, life was generally good to me. But I’ve come to realize that whatever you do or whatever path you have chosen, questioning your choices over and over again will always be a part of your life.

Part of the reason why I started asking myself these questions again was that the pandemic brought about a sudden change in all aspects of my life. I suddenly found myself spending my days just doing simple things like gardening or feeding strays. I started writing about other things as well because traveling was not possible. I also felt like it doesn’t make sense to write about travel. 

The sudden and unexpected changes in my routine certainly affected my interests and priorities. Like so many uninformed people like me, I truly thought that the pandemic will only last for a few months. But then months literally turned into years. And in between those months, I suddenly found myself no longer interested in traveling that much. 

Don’t get me wrong; I will still leave this place in an instant if an enticing travel opportunity is presented in front of me. But my travel interest has been reduced to a very small extent. In the past, my life only revolved around, ” I should find a way to do this or that” or “I have to go to this country, otherwise, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.” I’d say it with such strong conviction that I’d lose sight of anything else around me. But during the past three years of the pandemic, I suddenly realized that I really don’t mind if I don’t get to do those exciting things anymore. It wouldn’t hurt to do at least one or two of them someday but if circumstances don’t permit it, then I don’t really mind either. It appears, that living an unexciting life doesn’t sound so bad after all.

All of a sudden, I started leaning back on my academic interests. So naturally, I thought about finishing my degree. But I also thought if it’s even worth it. Despite my academic interests, I strongly believe that you don’t need a degree to be successful in life. Pursue it if you want, but with the technology and resources we have today, you can do almost anything without it. But then the what-ifs kept returning whenever I didn’t have something to do, so one day, I finally gave in and decided to make a plan. Since my life is currently on pause, might as well keep myself busy with other stuff.

The thing is, I know exactly why I stopped going to university a long time ago. It was so hard to fit in.

I remember my first day in college. I learned that most of my blockmates, if not all, were either class valedictorians or salutatorians in high school. I was not an honor student in high school, but since I graduated with a 90+ average and aced the entrance exam, I got into the university with these bright young minds.

It was an extremely competitive environment, but what made it somehow worse, was that I was 1 of only 3 English majors in a room of more than 20 MassCom students. And although I was able to gain new friends, none of them were particularly interested in the same things as me, and I found myself stuck with my own company most of the time.

Not long after, I quit, left home, and volunteered in a shelter for abused and abandoned children. Years later, I decided to work instead and pursued other passions. By the time, I was 18, I managed to get myself into the corporate world.

In 2015, I tried to return to university and gave it a second chance. But not long after, I realized it wasn’t for me. When you have been thrust into the real world at a young age, it’s hard to go back to school and be in an environment where people are still living in a fantasy. I was still in my early 20s but I was already too much of an adult. I just felt out of place.

I knew that I could never go back to a regular university setup. At first, I was interested in enrolling at UP Open University. But I came from a private Catholic research institution, and the curriculum is different from a state university system. My courses won’t be credited and I would have to go back to being a 1st-year student. I also considered Asian Institute for Distance Education, but their lagging response to my inquiries made me hesitate to take the plunge. 

Luckily, I found a more favorable option – Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation (ETEEAP). And I heard that one of the best schools in the country that offers this program is my university, the University of San Jose-Recoletos.

After a long and grueling process of interviews and assessments, I was informed that I was eligible to do the program. I am currently pursuing the same degree which is a bachelor’s degree in English Language Studies. My blogging background and marketing experience actually fit with other programs like BSBA in Marketing Management and BA in Liberal Arts and Commerce, but I chose to pursue the same thing.

The schedule, the pace – it was all up to me. I started last April and managed to finish all my coursework in just four months. But I am not yet done. I still have a project study to finish. Only one more mountain to climb.

And by the way, I’m the only student taking English Language Studies! I had one-on-one classes with my instructors the entire time. Some might say that it’s terrifying to be the sole focus of your instructors, but I actually prefer it this way. But you know what’s the best thing about this whole thing? They all treated me like an adult. To them, I was not just a regular student. Most of the coursework that I had to finish had something to do with what I do for a living. It’s a different kind of pressure. But this time around, I am loving every second of it.

It took me more than 10 years to find a setup that works for me. Taking detours is often impossible to many, that’s why I am thankful for programs like ETEEAP because people like me are given a chance to take a detour without going all the way back.

Soon, I’ll be able to find out the answers to the what-ifs that kept me up at night.

Final thoughts

It can be easy to forget the progress we’ve made or to dwell on the what-ifs that occupied our thoughts in the past. But it’s important not to let these thoughts take hold and prevent us from moving forward. Rather, let them remind us how far we’ve come and an incentive to continue working hard – even when things don’t go according to plan. So remember: keep going – no matter what happens. Adelante!

LIFE UPDATE: I got my degree and graduated with flying colors!