A F*****g Long Detour

A F*****g Long Detour

A Story by architect

Well. So here we are. The end of the f*****g long detour.
There’s always the short version of the story: I’ve always had wanted to take up architecture and become an architect. There are already roughly 38,000 who had wanted to become architect in addition to the 3,000 plus recently minted ones. I suppose this isn’t exceptional. People who go back to school or taking up second degrees are not unheard of. But, as all stories go, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. This isn’t some essay that will tell you to drop everything and pursue your passion. This certainly isn’t an inspiring story of someone who succeeded or got happy for achieving a lifelong goal.
Because the long version of this one is about not getting what you want.
Back in high school, ever since the idea of choosing a career in architecture was incepted in my mind, the universe immediately aligned for me not to get it. Seemingly. Most of it are my poor decision making skills and could be attributed to the impulsivity and ignorance of youth.
There were offered elective classes that I could have taken in high school that would help or assist me in my chosen field but I wasn’t able to because of certain reasons. I mean, no normal high school student decides to go to Introduction to Calculus willingly. Drafting classes fill up immediately and Advance Geometry wasn’t able to accommodate me because such a high demand. For two years, I begrudgingly studied deviations and calculated the area under the curve. A small consolation was that I was in that class with a friend, who was the Top Student of the Batch and he tutored me a lot.
During the period of selecting colleges after high school, I was able to pass both UP and UST entrance exams for architecture but I blindsided everyone (including myself) and went to UA&P. I can’t even explain properly this decision. Many took the UP entrance exams and I know only a few of us got in. UST was the backup plan so how did UA&P even got into the mix? How could I give it all away?
Well, for one, there was an opportunity. A thick envelope, containing brochures and application forms and a letter offering scholarship from a university I never heard of was mailed to our house. There was several moments of shrugging shoulders and “well, I have nothing to lose” in submitting the form, going through the test, attending the interview. I was never getting in anyway. Also, these all happened because my dad died years prior. Opportunity in this case, was a salesperson knocking on the door with a caveat emptor.
The second reason is a little more complex: the revelation of what my classmates thought of me in high school. See, I hung out a lot with the Top Student of the Batch, along with similar kind of students. And most of the time I just do whatever they do. Which is study. Top Student eventually became the valedictorian and others got awarded with a Best in Something subject while I - I just got consistent honor student award. (Which is pretty laughable, come to think of it. It’s the highest recognition you can give to the mediocrity of a regular student. Very pre-millennial). I just happened to study a lot not because I peer pressured myself to do it.
Top Student of the Batch wasn’t the one who gave me the idea of taking up architecture. It was another student who was very good in drawing. But the former also passed UP and was going to take up Civil Engineering. So as friends, we made our plans. We’ll both graduate from UP, we’ll enlist for the same general subjects and when we get graduate, we’ll put up a firm. Our future is bright. We’ll conquer the world.
Then few weeks shy of graduation, someone told me that the only reason I am “smart’ was because of the said friend, the Top Student of the Batch. That I was always in his shadow and the other friends as well. There was a week that the Top Student of the Batch and I enlisted all our subject and the following week we scheduled to pay for the tuition. But between those dates, UA&P called, asking if I was accepted and should enroll at once or else, lose my slot. It was on that fateful phone call, on a hot sweaty summer Tuesday afternoon, I changed my mind on a whim and said yes, I’ll be going to this school.
And actually, that’s it. That’s the reason I sidestepped from going to UP to take up Architecture. That started the F*****g Long Detour. I traded five years (and more) for freedom from his shadow. That too honesty guy was technically correct and believed I got to where I was at the time not because of my own merit. I was just a sidekick. It stung in my fragile pubescent years. I don’t even remember telling my friends about the sudden decision. I told the short version to everyone else. I have a scholarship in UA&P (which was a pretty lame excuse, as I was also basically a scholar in UP). My mom was surprised but didn’t even questioned it. It was my decision anyway. I was young and if I still wanted to go for architecture, I could go back. Easy peasy.
This is the part I will emphasize that I have no regrets going to UA&P. True, I hated it at first, openly �" ask anyone who was in my bloc, probably because I didn’t know what I was getting into. For a while I rejected the scholars clique because I got ingrained with the thought that I was not exceptionally intelligent as they were, and I was unworthy of being called a scholar. It only reminded me of what that stupid classmate said. I’m in UA&P because my dad died and I got a consistent high grades thanks to the Top Student of the Batch. The university and its culture grew on me anyway, and I met the best kind of people in the most unusual kind of environment. The kind that stuck around even though I kept pushing them away. The final year was especially hard, taking up the Masters program, because I was interning for a big firm and was doing more than I could handle. I endured it anyway. All my five years there, architecture was just a distant but constant whisper I just have to ignore for a while. I decided to live in the moment. Enjoy these people who seem to genuinely enjoy me. Jesus Christ, I even joined a theater org. That happened. Now, I have to apologize time to time for my shamelessness when called to perform.
After UA&P graduation, I didn’t get a job right away. I was pretty much lost as there was no plans after this school unlike when I was planning on becoming an architect. (I mean, I tried to make plans but none of them was working.) I had a brief stint in CSB for to learn magazine design. I also spent a few weeks in Mindanao. There was a family reunion and after that I hung back alone to visit different places. Mostly my mom’s hometown, which was also the last place my dad was seen alive. Stories about my dad ebbs and flows throughout the trip and talking to people there. There's something to going back to your roots and the causes of your particular condition at a specific time. Before that, I only had bits and pieces of how my dad died. If I step back far enough in this long detour, the overall picture included the place of where my mom lived and where my dad died.
Back in Manila, I got a job eventually, the only one I legitimately had before I went back for architecture. There wasn’t much to say. Six months in, I wanted to quit. I was ready to quit. I mean, making reports on how each investment bank in the world invests and knowing who their personnel are is just about as boring as it sounds. I was literally and figuratively asleep on the job. I didn’t sign up for this. And I don’t think my officemates like me that much.
I started to apply for other jobs but I was already spiralling downwards. My mom in the midst of me being lost, said, “Don’t quit your job, stay there for a year and if you still feel like it, go and take up architecture.” I remember replying, “Don’t joke like that because I am going to take that seriously.” And that I did.
Off tangent, I always hear a lot of young people after they graduate say they miss school because it was much easier and they’ll take another course because mostly their parents just forced them to take their original course. I’ve been initially dismissive of these people, feeling like they were cop outs who can’t deal with the “real world,” and probably have settled in their comfort zones and were never going to do anything about their nostalgia and wishful thinking. It was true then, and I guess, it’s still true now. I admit to being hypocritical as I grabbed the first opportunity to do it when it came. While I realize that I am not in a position to judge them, I will do it anyway until they actually follow through. I know it’s not easy so if you are able to do it, cool, good for you.
I immediately called up UP and UST again if they accept second degree students. UP did and UST didn’t (boo) or rather, they never called back (double boo). And in the following months, I stopped giving a s**t about being unhappy with my job, and powered through the motions. I had a goal.
Well, I got there, eventually, despite the disapproval of my brothers. UP and architecture, sounds like a dream but had been a walking nightmare in my experience, especially towards the end. I would like to believe there were complex layers how I came to this insight and it would be unfair to summarize it in a simplistic statement. Sure, I’ll acknowledge I got my architecture degree from the country’s f*****g premiere university but I am going to refuse to thank UP as an institutional system. It sucked and from what I gather from those who are still in there, it still sucks has a lot to improve on. I left it with such a bad taste in my mouth. (Ok while I may be a little biased because there was a basis for comparison with another university but still, it objectively does not live up to its hype.)
Academics aside, the university just threw every possible barricade in front of me to achieve my goal. It’s like you thought that UP was the golden bridge that’s going to get you from point A to B, but in reality the people there are going to give you an old raft and a broken paddle to cross an ocean full of s**t. Continuing on this metaphor, there were islands of great relief, areas that are I am genuinely thankful for. There were individuals or even groups of people out there in the same ocean, those who were just as lost as I was, but manage to provide anchors to keep you sane or a better paddle to keep me moving forward.
There was a breaking point that I really got tired and burned out. I was rushing towards the end, demanded more effort that I could handle from myself, believing I was running out of time, that it took a toll on my mental health. In my mania to keep up, I broke down and stumbled behind. So I stopped. I got delayed.
There wasn’t much to say any more about that. Even as I went back to finish my thesis, UP conspired to make things even harder and wanted me to spend more time (and money) and take f*****g forty-five more units of subjects because apparently all my subjects from UA&P were not credited. Notified on my final year. And apparently, it was my fault. Because I took a break and got delayed. It certainly wasn’t the fault of the admin who credited all those subject while I was enrolling five years prior. Two other second degree students I was with were not put through the same stress and easily graduated because the system changed between the time they had their graduation and I had to take my time off. Oh boy. It was on. Several letters to vice-chancellors and rounds to different colleges to plead my case and to credit subjects from UA&P. It’s not the admin’s fault in anyway so I have to carry the burden. I pulled through anyway. So I was allowed to graduate. I really should be thanking the admin for that f*****g privilege.
But wait, there’s more. Apparently, UP still wasn’t done. They’re not releasing my certificate or transcript because I owe them money. I was miscategorized for the bracket during my stay there and was paying below the fee per unit. And boy, those numbers added up. I didn’t ask to be miscategorized and my other second degree batchmate in the same bracket wasn’t put through this. But guess who is going to carry the burden and pay the consequences? Basically holding my diploma and grades hostage when I needed those requirements to take the board exams. They wanted me to agree to a deal with them to pay them every month for two years! But I was f*****g done with UP. I didn’t want to be tied up and keep going back to the loathed place for two years. Even writing these down now still makes my chest hurt physically.
I have to thank my family. I mean, this was a very turbulent period in my life. I shouldn’t be putting them in a pedestal because we are far from the ideal family situation and there were many conflicts and problems besides mine. But in the end, they were the ones tolerating me and gave that final push of support when there was no one else to turn to. I’m always grateful for my mother but let me put a spotlight on my siblings. You heard that saying to keep your friends and enemies closer. Well, keep your siblings even closer so that your faces can be stitched together. They can be a source of treacherous truths about you, but at the same time, the navigation you need because they know you that well. Our different and extreme traits and personalities made everyone else outside our family tolerable.
So yeah, thanks but no thanks, UP. Instead of getting me ashore, you pushed me back into your s****y ocean even as I was already sinking. We could have parted ways on better terms.
I got an apprenticeship with a design-build firm and everything started to settle. I just need to earn my hours. It was pretty much straightforward. I got a demanding boss, worked long hours, dealt with a few officemates I like and I hate �" sorry �" I strongly dislike. There were few more practical learnings but nothing essentially new or overdramatic except for that one arrogant drunk intern.
I must credit the people who are with me towards the end. There’s some truth, probably, that we won’t be hanging out much after all of these. They already know I’m grateful for them, as I’ve been trying to be more open in personally thanking people these days. One was them accompanied me throughout thesis and review period and while the other one told me about the opening where I got my apprenticeship and worked with him for a while.
The rest was mechanical: Review for board exams, take board exams, pass the board exams, prepare for oath taking, attend oath-taking.
I didn’t participate in any essay writing contests after either graduation or even after passing the board exam. Although I felt like I should have but I didn’t deserve it yet. And what was I going to say when there are long ways to go?
Also, it never felt my life was supposed to mean anything to anybody. It just kind of happened. And there were parts that took a while before I owned up any responsibility for them. I didn’t pursue my calling the first time around so who am I to give the advice to ‘go and pursue your passion.’ I'm not even I sure if should go around and labeling it as 'a calling.'

And who cares what I’ve sacrificed or if I suffered? I chose UA&P and then I chose UP. Those weren’t anybody else’s decisions. I derailed my own plan and when I thought I already got on the right path again, I realized it isn't what I expected. I suspect this is going to impact my future choices. But what the hell, I'm ready for a new adventure. The voyage is still going on.
There is an enormity that isn’t told in inspirational speeches: the dirty stuff that goes unheard because there is no audience for it. They’ll immediately launch into their grandiose ideals to be this and that and how to be in the future, how to survive or how to live. In reality, there are many boring and cringey parts that take up time and chip away the unnecessary excesses on one’s version of dreams. These moments suck out the soul of the person. You can only take pieces of advice based on others’ experiences and never follow any of them. There are harsh lessons on who to trust and who to let go. There are hyperboles of doubts and rock bottoms and there are gonna be extremely amazing highs you will be too scared to fall down from. You learn to live on the edge of failure and incompetence. You also learn to shake hands with your mistakes, embracing them as your friends and then burying them six feet under the ground like they are your worst enemies so they may never return.
I am aware that this does not end in that tiny plastic card with my name on it. Everything was prior to that was just a long detour (and a journey in a pretty s****y ocean). There will be more choices to make after this, more compelling and more substantial events and definitely even more mundane happenings in between. This is certainly not a success story. This was just a roundabout way trying to find yourself before finding if you really desire that thing.

© 2018 architect


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Added on August 22, 2018
Last Updated on August 22, 2018
Tags: essay, architecture, UP, UST, oathtaking, detour, journey, life