Rising above mediocrity

I was an unremarkable high school student. I was introverted, insecure, and had nothing that made me stand out from other students in my alma mater.

Terrified of shaking up my comfortable life, I delayed worrying about college until I had little time to worry about anything else. Fortunately, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) was still accepting applications by the time I thought of preparing for college. I decided to take up Journalism because I imagined I was good at writing and could not see myself doing anything else.

Stepping into UST felt like coming home, and I was thrilled when I found out that I passed the entrance examinations. But getting into my dream school came with a hell of a lot of challenges.

My block was composed of people who looked like they had their whole life together at the age of sixteen. They were passionate about journalism, and had the talent and experience to boot. Being around them made me feel small and stupid. I knew I had a lot of catching up to do.

But I was not able to adjust to the workload and stress during my freshman year. I realized that I was not as good as I thought I was, and I hoped that UST could give me the education I needed to be successful in the field. And while I did meet some great professors during my four-year stay, I also encountered professors whose performances were unsatisfactory, challenging me to figure things out on my own.

I was scared that I would revert to the average student I was in high school, but college presented many opportunities for me to improve myself.

I was first introduced to the Flame when staffers did room-to-room promotions during orientation week. It was love at first sight. I visited the office to ask for old copies of the newsletter and hungrily flipped through the pages. Every time a new issue was released, I would dutifully grab my copies from the news racks.

I mulled about taking the qualifying examination thrice, but whether by circumstance or due to my own self doubt, I would miss it. Finally, I passed the examination on my junior year and was promoted to Issues editor a year later.

The Flame made up for all the lessons and training that regular classes were not able to give me. Being part of the publication gave me an opportunity to be better at my craft and to regain my self-confidence. Our small office became a home to me, and the editors and staffers became my family.

Once my excitement at being an editor waded off, the stress and exhaustion settled in. I struggled with managing my time between my academic work and my responsibilities as an editor.

But among all these, the most difficult setback I experienced was when my father passed away a few months before my graduation. It was sudden, and for a while, everything felt off balance and muddled to me. Consumed with grief, I was not able to work despite how hard I pushed myself.

I kept thinking of all the worst-case scenarios. I imagined that I would not be able to catch up with my academic work and graduate on time. I let my anxiety eat me alive and convince me that I was not progressing despite how much work I did.

But now, I am leaving the University with a Journalism degree tucked under my arm.

What I have learned is this: no one starts as someone successful right away. Dear reader, if right now you think that you are mediocre, that just means you have lots of room to improve. Do not settle. Set goals, work hard, and face every challenge you encounter head-on. With enough grit and patience, you might just see yourself become something great.
To my #IssuesStrongest team, thank you for all your hard work. I am proud of every single one of you. Continue digging for stories to tell Artlets and be fearless in your pursuit of the truth.

To my co-editors, thank you for reminding me that journalism is a service that requires passion, patience, and sacrifice. Because of you, I gained a newfound respect and appreciation for my craft. To Mikkah and Adam, know that all my Thursdays are still reserved for you. To the entire Flamily, thank you for all the good memories.

To my mentors, especially my Issues mothers—Ate Marla, Ate Alex, Ate AJ, Ate Kat, and Ate Naomi—I am grateful and humbled to have received guidance and encouragement from you. I would not be where I am today without all your help.

To Lean, Jelly, Sunday, AJ, Mark, Sierra, Ria, and Consi, you made college life worthwhile. Thank you for all the inside jokes, the chikas, the comfort you offered in times of vulnerability, and everything in between.

To Corheinne, you have made me a very proud ate. As one of my former editors told me, love the Flame and it will love you back. I know you’ll go farther.

To Clint, you have been with me through the good and the bad times. You make me feel safe. You make me feel strong. Thank you for everything.

And to my family, thank you for your constant love and support. I hope I am making all of you proud. F

For feedback, email minkatiangco.theflame@gmail.com.

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