I hope this letter finds you well, despite the nights you’ve stayed up and despite the caffeine running your system. I want to congratulate you after I saw posts on your wall about this year’s event line-up. Congratulations too, for organizing your department’s Balik Talent Lecture and Alumni Homecoming Night and for making sure that everyone pays their fees (or at least most of them) on time. May you find joy in the fact that your booth now standing alongside others despite how difficult it was to comply with the requirements and despite how tedious it was to instruct your booth builders to follow your design blueprint.
You might be feeling jealous because everyone who isn’t in your shoes is now enjoying this festive season, going around the Hibalag area with their loved ones or simply taking time to relax during this long university holiday. Here you are, running back and forth from the Oriental Hall to the Hibalag area to make sure that all activities run on time with no sleep and random numbers blasting your phone for information about their food stalls. I know you couldn’t help but make some mental snide remark at the freshmen chilling at the hallways or taking selfies near the booth displays. And tonight, you will be sleeping in the office with your org mates to make sure that you prepare early for the next day.
It’s not hard to tell that you wanted to cry when you were told that you were a “screw up” when your plans didn’t fall into place, when people around begin to question your capacity as a leader, as a teammate and as a dependable friend.Your voice started to crack when I called to check on you in the middle of the night and I knew perfectly well that your being “okay”isn’t “okay” at all. I know how badly you were stopping yourself from punching a wall from all the pent up frustrations and excuses you have been hearing from “oh, I have another meeting” to “I’m sorry my phone died.” I saw in your eyes how sorry you were for shouting at your members because they didn’t get your instructions right the first time, for not having the initiative to control the crowd backstage when that was the only job they had.
It hurts, and trust me when I say that nobody would understand you like someone who’s gone through the same path. I wouldn’t even go as far as say that this is a part of everyone’s college life because not everyone is stupendously brave and crazy enough to take up the responsibility of being a student leader. It’s a daunting task and what you are going through is a harrowing experience only you will be able to fully comprehend. In the past, you’ve probably even been asked what benefit you would be getting from working so hard on something you lose so much sleep, money and time over.
And before you answer and wrongfully reflect that you aren’t getting anything from being a student leader from this time of the year, I want you to pause and make a list of all the things that took place in the last few days. No, I don’t just mean the things that went wrong, but the moments when you were pushing yourself to make things happen, when you were trying to brighten up the mood of your discouraged committee members above your own pains. I am asking you to focus on these little miracles and understand that you are better, stronger and more able than what you think and what people say.
Don’t beat yourself up over things you cannot control. Life is a series of unpredictable events with zero guarantees. Regardless of how well you organize an activity, there will always be forces that could potentially foil your plans. The best thing you could do is to do your best. When that fails, let it happen. Evaluate. Learn to let it go. More importantly, learn to discern criticisms that you receive. Some people definitely mean well; others simply spew words to derail you from your goals. Learn to take in the good and dismiss the bad. At the end of the day, we are all trying, stumbling, grappling with reality. Heck, you don’t always get to decide the cards you deal with, but only how you use them. Give a toast knowing that what you did was right for all.
Thank you for bearing with all the pressures and demands that people are putting on your shoulders. I admire how you have gracefully proven yourself in these difficult times. Be comforted that when all this is over, you will never come out shortchanged from all your hard work. You will have earned the respect of your co-members, schoolmates and alumni for providing them with a memorable Founders Week which will last for a lifetime. When all of this is over, be assured that you will finally get some rest and you will have your life back.
I hope you find hope in this little gem: when you finally graduate from Silliman, know that you will always have an edge over everyone else because you have worked and fought twice as hard to be where you are.Believe that your agony now is with purpose because you will reap from it in the long run. And yes, you will soon realize that it’s your dreams—that dream job, that dream “everything”—are easily within reach because you are not just a Sillimanian…you are a student leader of Silliman.
I am proud of you: I have been, always am and always will be. Thank you for your service.
Someone like you from some time ago.~
*Michiko Je Bito-on is a mass communication graduate, Magna cum laude. She is currently the Junior Program Officer at the Fulbright Commission in the Philippines and a liaison officer at the U.S. Embassy, Manila.