Yup, that’s me. And this is my story.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
I have never denied the fact that I totally suck at Math. When I was studying in UP during the early 90s, it had always been my waterloo. I took Math 11 (College Algebra) three times, Math 14 (Trigonometry) six times, and Math 101 (Statistics) three times. During my last sem, I got a conditional grade of 4.0 in Math 100 (Calculus) so I took a removal exam. That was back (way, way back!) in 1994. I was already working and pregnant with my first child when I learned that I failed the exam. However, things that were much more important than trying to pass my Calculus started to happen almost all at once.
First, we had baby #1. Then, I had to quit my job because my husband’s work required us to move to the province. Baby #2 came along, and baby #3 after just another year. A few short years later and it was time to send them all to school. Then, we had to move to another province.
Before I knew it, more than two decades had already passed me by.
When two of our children were about to graduate in the same university that brought me and my husband together many years ago, I decided to take a leap of faith and enroll Math 100. I’ve been thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if the three of us all graduate at the same time? A mother and her two children. Also, I wanted to surprise my parents. They had no idea that I didn’t graduate in 1994. I just fed them with the lie that, during that time, I didn’t want to march with a protruding belly.
IN PURSUIT OF A DIPLOMA
Going back to school had not been easy for me, though. It was, in fact, extremely difficult and challenging.
Every Tuesday and Thursday for a total of four months, I had to wake up at 3:00 AM to prepare my family’s breakfast and make the commute from Bulacan to UP Clark for my 2-hour class.
My classmates were too young, younger than my youngest child. They called me Tita, and would always talk to me with po and opo. Thankfully, my teacher was almost my age. However, she had the annoying habit of addressing me Ma’am. In shame, I wished the ground would open and swallow me up each time she would do that.
In my desire to pass Math 100, I had to rekindle so many long-forgotten relationships that I would rather bury in oblivion — with X and Y, with Sin and Cos, and with Limit, Derivative and Integral. As a long-time wife and mother, my brain has been wired to dealing with and solving domestic issues and conflicts, no longer to decoding the complicated relationships between equations and functions!
I also had to endure the humiliation of being tutored by my son. I knew that it was equally hard for him (he was often my shock absorber cum emotional punching bag especially when I would get frustrated due to a difficult lesson) but, as a parent, I had been used to doing the teaching to my children. It should not be the other way around.
During exams, I was always this one big, useless, confused, mumbling ball. Nobody at home would dare talk to me or ask anything from me. I was so focused on reviewing days and nights before the exam — only to have the various topics mixed up in my mind during the examination itself or to forget everything I’ve meticulously studied. For the first five minutes of my first long exam, I got completely immobilized by nerves. My brain refused to function, my heart was racing, I was breaking into a cold sweat, I was feeling dizzy and lightheaded, and I had difficulty breathing. When I eventually managed to will my hand to move, it was shaking uncontrollably. I thought I had to run to the clinic!
Unsurprisingly, I earned a singko for that exam.
Things didn’t get much better during the succeeding exams. I still suffered from panic attacks or would be prone to pre-exam “catastrophes” such as the flu, early arrival of the monthly period, and diarrhea.
During the final exam, I was among the “walking dead” or those students sporting eyebags the size of a golf ball, disheveled appearance, and glassy eyes.
I had a perfect attendance and I was always the first one to arrive in the classroom. I was attentive and I always did my homeworks. At one point, I even got the highest score in our exam (but that still failed to push my grade to a passing level.) My teacher knew that Math 100 was the only thing that was keeping me from my very elusive diploma. She knew how badly I needed to pass that subject.
In the end, though, she still gave me a grade of 4.0, with no option to take a removal exam.
I was devastated.
I was furious.
I was embarrassed.
I found comfort in my husband and children’s assurance that there was no shame in what happened. I did my best, and that was what’s most important, they said. In hindsight, I realized that if my teacher gave me an undeserved passing grade out of pity or sympathy, my high regard for UP would be shattered.
So, when the hubby and kids urged me to re-enroll Math 100 the following sem, I did just that. That time around, I chose to enroll in UP Diliman.
THE SECOND CHANCE
On the very first day of class, I wanted to quit.
I learned that, unlike in Clark, I had to go to Diliman four times a week for a one-hour class each day. Every Tuesday and Thursday, my class would start as early as 7:15 AM and my classroom was on the third floor! (On Wednesdays and Fridays, it was a little later at 8:45 AM. Class was on the fourth floor, though.) My teacher was really young, just a little older than my eldest child. And when I saw the course outline, I knew right away that the pace would be brutal, the coverages (particularly for the first two quarters) would be long, and no exemption from the final exam would be allowed.
My children could take as many as seven subjects in a sem, and I would expect them to bring home impeccable grades, while there I was, allowing myself to abandon my long-time dream of earning a diploma, to give up the fight even before it started, to be daunted by the obstacles that a single subject entailed.
And so, with my children as my inspiration, I went ahead and kept going.
After two sems, I acquired more white hair and reacquired migraine; nightmares and panic attacks became my constant companions before exams; I reconnected with caffeine; I lost at least 15 pounds of unwanted fats (this, I considered a positive development); the sight of square roots, absolute values or greater integer functions no longer frazzled me as much; and I have come to appreciate more the effort that my children have been putting into their studies. But, most importantly, I was able to accomplish my goal.
Together with my two children, I am going to graduate tomorrow!