Last April 5, 2018, I delivered my first ever inspirational speech for the first batch of Senior High School graduates of my Alma Mater – Parang National High School. I graduated from this school 15 years ago and honestly, this year’s event and visit made me somewhat emotional. When they sang the school’s songs I sang years ago, I couldn’t help myself but be teary-eyed for a moment. I suddenly remembered my graduation day, all those mixed emotions of excitement and fear. To the graduates, congratulations! I’m not a very good writer nor an experienced speaker, but I hope I am able to inspire you with my speech below.
Today, I am not only congratulating you, the graduates who successfully completed the additional years of learning in high school, but I am also congratulating your proud parents and relatives who have been waiting for this very special academic achievement. It’s normal to feel anxious and maybe scared after today’s celebration but take it easy. You are all going to be fine! How do I know that? The K to 12 curriculum has a purpose and that’s to make you all more ready and more equipped to join the workforce or enter college. Now let me ask you graduates, are you really ready to go out there and face life’s challenges?
Fifteen years ago, I was just like you. I was happy, excited but I also felt fear, fear of the unknown future, fear of new routine, fear of being in a new school, new place, and with new friends. But aside from fear, there was also stress. My father was against the idea of me going to MSU-IIT. The school offered me BS Statistics, a course that’s new to me and my parents so obviously my father didn’t like it. I remember he wanted me to go to UP in Iloilo, take up BS Accountancy which was the course that I originally wanted, or go to NDU Cotabato City instead as it was nearer. Choosing a school for college is sometimes stressful. Money is the number 1 consideration, no. 2 is parent’s approval. But when my mother asked me if I was sure of MSU-IIT, there was uncertainty inside me, but I saw that question as a window of opportunity, so I confidently said YES I am sure! Who wouldn’t want to go to a public school anyway? It’s cheaper and living away from my strict father was a plus!
So there I was a university student of my chosen school, thanks to my mother, taking up BS Statistics but planning to shift to BS Accountancy for the next semester or school year. That was my original plan. But you see, life is full of twists and turns. This was my realization no.1 during my first few years in college. What you don’t like right now might be interesting for you next year. From wanting to be CPA, I started loving my course and got obsessed with the idea of graduating with honors and be a company statistician or a statistics professor someday.
Fast forward, after many sleepless nights, I did graduate as Cumlaude, a battlefield I have won, yet I had one regret which led me to realization no. 2 – Enjoy, make friends and learn new good things from them. I focused too much on my studies before that well, you can picture me as the KJ and the most serious one in the group. I’m not saying it’s bad but seriously it’s not good either. Remember that college is not just about passing subjects after subjects. Treat it as the place where you can discover new skills or talents, and a place where you can improve your people skills. Believe me, you’ll need good people skills when you want to succeed at work someday.
Months after graduation in college, I didn’t get the job that I wanted that time. Why? Because again, life is full of twists and turns. It turned out that pursuing a career is expensive. I traveled to places just for an interview, yet I failed. I applied to several schools, I even tried applying in a bank one time because I was told statisticians have a place in banks, but then again, I wasn’t chosen. And then came realization no. 3, Job hunting is not about grades or the number of awards received. Yes, it’s a plus, but not an assurance. My parents were already out of budget, I had 2 siblings in college that time so if you do the math, obviously the combined salaries of a teacher and a fireman won’t make ends meet. So I went home, unemployed. And there I was, an elementary and high school valedictorian, a Cum Laude graduate, waiting for days to pass by, most of the time just inside my room. But here’s my realization no. 4, and it’s very common in movies because it really happens in real life, that when you’re at your lowest, when you already lack resources, no money, don’t lose hope because there are windows of opportunities reserved for each of you. All you have to do is be open-minded and be brave to make a decision fast.
For my path to landing a job, my window of opportunity was a text from a childhood friend in Cebu informing me about a vacancy of the place where she stayed. I knew we had no more money for another travel, my father was already complaining but I convinced him to give me 1 shot. Thankfully, he agreed but my parents only gave me money to pay for a month of rent. So when I arrived in Cebu, I did not waste any time. I widened my options, I applied to all positions I’m willing to take, all positions containing the terms “Analyst”, “Specialist” and so on. And just 2 days after I arrived in Cebu, I got a job. A job that I had no idea really yet I accepted it because it was the first opened door for me and I was afraid I won’t get another one in a month. I was hired as a Search Engine Specialist, that time I had no knowledge that Google, Bing and Yahoo are called Search Engines. My manager told me he chose me because he wanted someone who’s good in numbers and who can help him with his research. So I excitedly signed my first ever contract with a plan of staying for few months only because, again, I wanted to be a Statistician.
But life is not a one-path journey, this was my realization no. 5. I realized, well I am already good in numbers and analysis, why not use it in other fields instead? So I worked hard, studying terms in the IT industry, Google and Youtube became my bestfriends for me to learn new skills. I stayed in the same company for 8 years, I enjoyed several promotions, managing different teams, I also had time for love life that’s why I married my officemate, we had our first child, everything started to fall into place. But nothing in life is permanent, most especially jobs and this was my realization no.6. Our company decided to close their PH office and I was pregnant with my 2nd child. And there I was, a soon to be a mother of two, unemployed but not hopeless. Why? Because I knew, there will be another window of opportunity for me, at the right time.
Now, I am a full-time work-at-home mom, working for a digital marketing agency, helping online businesses in achieving their goals. My office is in our house so yeah instead of corporate clothes, I’m working in my pajamas. My boss might not be around but I can hear my other bosses shouting every now and then, calling for mommy. Was this my dream job when I was your age? Of course not. But when I became a mother, all I wanted was to earn more money, discover new opportunities while being close to my children. Digital marketing has opened me doors to many opportunities so yes, what I have right now is my dream job which led me to realization no. 7 – there’s no such thing as luck, only answered prayers with some twists from the most powerful above all.
How I chose my path, I am not alone. I know some registered nurses who chose to join the PNP, a nurse graduate who’s now a writer, a law school graduate who chose to open and focus on his business. You see graduates, success is not an end goal. It’s a never-ending process towards happiness and fulfillment and it’s changing because goals change as you grow older. Right now, all of you are successful senior high school graduates, most of you will go to college so aim for that diploma as your next goal. Focus on your studies, get a part-time job if financial resources are not enough. It’s a must to have fun with friends but it’s never OK to attend class with a hangover. It’s OK to have a love life, but for girls, remember your father’s face whenever you’re alone with your boyfriend, for boys, remember your mother’s face. It’s OK to fail once, twice but please make sure you won’t stay 7 years in college!!! Always think about your parents! Try your best not to fail them!
For those of you who will be joining the workforce early, just trust in yourself and widen your options. Don’t ever think you deserve little just because you don’t have a college degree. I know high school graduates who are now managing teams in companies, I know many who are very good in what they do and are now earning huge, some started early to put up their own small businesses, your options are actually endless. So I will not ask you again whether you’re indeed ready to go out there because I know you all are! So just as long as you open your eyes to see windows of opportunities, be quick and firm with your decisions, always think about your parents and family who supported you, be friendly out there, believe in yourself and most importantly, pray to your Allah or God, you’ll all be alright. Thank you and congratulations!