I’m a 90’s kid and I became a father at a very young age. I got my then girlfriend (and now wife of 22 years) pregnant when I was 16. I became a father at 17 and we got married when I turned 18. Thankfully, my parents still sent me to college.
I wrote the piece below when I was 19 years old and my college life was in shambles because I was trying to work and study at the same time. It was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and was included in a book compilation of the best submissions. The book is called Youngblood 2.0 which is still in print. It was my first work ever published in a national paper and it’s a bonus that it got included in the book.
Now, I’m 39 years old and I still receive messages from readers of the book from time to time. I guess the piece resonates with Filipino college students. It was from the heart that I wrote it and I thought I’d share it with you here. I hope you like it.
Tips From a Loser
By Arvin I. Buising
Dear Little Sister,
So you’ve just turned 14. Now you enjoy a lot more freedom than you did three years ago. You choose the clothes you wear. You choose the time you want to go to bed and the time you want to wake up. You can even stay up late, pretending to be studying while actually dreaming about the cute guy you saw in school.
Now I can't call you names like "Butiki" or "Big Eyes" anymore. No longer can I pull your hair or hit you on the head or do violent things whenever I get mad at you.
You're turning into a woman and you have a life ahead of you. Three years from now, you’ll be going to college and I hope that you won’t make the same mistakes that I did.
Me? Everybody thinks I'm a failure - Nanay, Tatay, my teachers, my wife, even you, I guess. Everybody thinks I'm a failure because even a miracle won't help me graduate on time. I'll be an undergraduate forever.
I know I'm smart. How could I have passed the UP college admission test otherwise? I finished elementary as a valedictorian. I finished high school as a valedictorian. I always got the first honors.
But UP was different. Everyone there had brains as big as mine, maybe even bigger. If I was superman in our little barrio, then UP was the planet Krypton.
I was not ready to fight intellectual battles with people who had the same capacity as mine. I was used bullying intellectual weaklings. I finally met my match after years of reigning over our little barrio. So I got beaten black and blue. It was really a big shock for me.
Now everyone thinks I'm a failure. But someday when I have recovered from the shock, I'll be back with a vengeance. Someday . . .
But you, my dear little sister, are definitely not a failure. And you will never be if you follow these simple tips:
There's a world out there to conquer and it’s a lot bigger than what children's songs say. Don't confine your dreams to our little barrio. Dream bigger dreams. But be practical. You have to learn to strike a balance between being imaginative and being practical and that is vital for success.
Other students may seem to write better than you. Some may appear to do better in numbers. Others will look smarter in the way they dress or the manner they speak. The rule is: Don’t let them scare you. They may look like geniuses to you, but they're not. Most of them are casual nerds.
I always say that a bus with a beep of a bike is a lot more dangerous than a tricycle with a horn of a ship. Don’t let them see you coming. Don’t tell your housemates you topped an exam. They will distract you when you review for your next exam. They will suddenly be generous and treat you to a concert or a movie.
Never get near to a person who is in love or even talk to that person on the phone. Never watch a movie of Meg Ryan. Never read love stories. Above all, never get nearer than ten meters from an attractive member of the opposite sex.
Love is intoxicating and fun at first, but after a while you'll see he can be a pain in you know where.
Be ready to face people who are really smarter than you. I guess there are a lot of them out there. Remember that smart is not a synonym for successful. They may be smarter than you but you can beat them by being resourceful. Try to make friends with the upper-class men. They have notes and old exams that you will find useful. Aside from that, they can also help you avoid terrible instructors.
Speaking of instructors, my favorite instructor used to tell us to know our readers before we write. When you're in college, your audience will actually be your instructors. The trick in writing roughly translates into this: Know your instructors. Learn their styles, their grading system, and other important facts, like their phone numbers, and you won’t have to get a cinco in your entire life.
this lesson is the one I learned the hardest. I learned that you shouldn’t daydream about what you're going to do when a very boring class finally ends. You can "overthink" the feeling of topping the exam while you're still reviewing for it. You will anticipate the future too much that you will no longer live in the present. Take each day as it comes. Don't expect too much form the future, or one disappointment will be enough to shatter you. Neither should you dwell too long on the past.
I have a lot more to tell you, but this letter is getting too long. I'll just tell them to you personally when I’m drunk and I have the guts to say things I don’t usually say.
Meet my family. My wife and I had 4 kids. Angela, Miguel, Gabriela, and Armand.