If you’re just about to pick a course or currently choosing what to major in… I hope that what I will share with you below can help you in deciding which course to take…
When I was a freshman in high school, I was convinced that I was going to end up working within the medical profession. I don’t mean to stereotype here so I apologise now if I sound as if I am but I feel like most Filipinos work within the medical field because well, they’re amazing, hardworking and intelligent but I also think that Filipino parents tend to push this type of career path to their children (most of the time). Even though young students know they have a passion for something else, they follow what their parents and society expect of them. The awesome Filipino-American comedian Jokoy even touched upon this subject and made a joke about how upset his mother was when she found out he chose to work as a comedian. ‘Your aunties are nurses…Your cousins are nurses…’ You get the idea.
When I moved to the UK (I was a junior HS student), all my plans had changed unexpectedly. I won a singing competition and that’s how my career in the entertainment industry began. I still recall choosing my AS subjects and I couldn’t help but choose the ones where I could make the most of my creative talents. I chose Media, ICT, Music and Drama and unlike most people who dropped one subject on the second year, I chose to carry on studying all four of them all the way up to A level (that’s how dedicated I was). After I completed my certificates and achieved high grades it only made sense to choose Theatre and Performance Studies as my major in University.
Uni life wasn’t easy and there were many times when I felt like I regretted choosing a degree that required a lot of group work. I mean I’m a great team player but, it was so hard to work with some of the other students who were there just to mess around. I didn’t socialise much because I don’t drink, smoke or stay up late because first of all, that’s not like me at all and I needed to protect my voice and be physically healthy all the time. I took my studies seriously and was always sad when some people would turn up hungover or unprepared for important theatre rehearsals. Just as an example, for my final performance showcase and after 2 months of rehearsals, the main lead who had about 80% of the lines in our version of Harold Pinter’s play ‘One For The Road’, dropped out two weeks before our performance. He decided he couldn’t do the role any more (he was struggling with his lines and didn’t have the courage to take on a big role), so I had to step in and be the female version of the main character. No one else could take on the challenging task of learning all the lines in two weeks and to start the process all over again. The rest of the cast didn’t want to so I was left to take over his role or risk our group falling apart at the last minute. As I took over his role, we played it out like we were exploring gender roles and it’s significance within the theatre industry. I became the female version of Nicolas and we called this revised character as ‘Nicola’. It was a surprise twist just to save our group from failing. I can proudly say we nailed the performance (I got an A) and I received a lovely comment from the head of the drama department saying how proud he was of what I have accomplished despite the difficulties I faced. No matter how tough it was, I got through it all and I was able to graduate with honours.
Hardships are not so hard
Despite the hardships and the lack of support I had around me at the time, I was able to keep my head up and finish what I started because I loved what I was studying and had so much passion for it. Had I chosen a career path or degree that I wasn’t initially in love with, I would have, no doubt fallen into so much despair while completing the course or I would have failed to finish the course altogether…who knows.
Those sleepless nights studying, reading and memorising my scripts were difficult moments but I poured every bit of myself in the tasks I needed to accomplish. When you are inspired to complete something because it’s a choice you made from the heart, nothing is ever impossible. If I followed my mind, I would have been more mentally exhausted and would have started to hurt inside and overthink everything else. The fact that my choices were from the heart meant that I can go with my gut feelings and instincts which helped me cope with the stress.
I also felt such an incredible sense of accomplishment at the end of each exam, module or performance. I didn’t feel any fear before my exams or performances; I was actually always excited for them because I knew that our group can finally show everyone the fruits of our hard work.
Nothing beats the heart
I’m a believer that our ‘feelings’ are everything. As mentioned above, if I had followed my mind, my heart would have secretly suffered but normally, if I follow my heart, my mind follows and I’m happier overall.
Gut instincts and feelings give us a true glimpse and indication of what we really need to do. Also, if you are faced with the unfortunate feelings of regret somewhere down the line, it’s easier to forgive yourself over the wrong decisions you feel you may have made. I’ve made so many decisions over the years where I look back and think, ‘Hmm, did I make the right call?’ and then when I feel like judging myself and wishing I could go back in time, I only have to say ‘I made the best decision I could make at the time while following my heart.’
When you have a passion for something, you build things which are great and long lasting. When you are doing something just for the sake of doing it and for money, then that’s when you start working just to live. I much prefer living because you love your work, not the other way around.
Life is too short to live someone else’s life.
I was more proud of myself
Whenever I finished a great theatre performance or completed a composition, I always felt this overwhelming feeling of pride. I can describe the feeling like this…
When I’m lifting weights, the first few reps aren’t so bad but when I get to about 11 out of the 15 I’ve got to do, my arms start hurting and breathing starts to get harder. As my heart starts pumping faster, I start to feel like giving up but a voice inside me goes ‘You got this…’ so I keep going. Once I finish the 15 reps and actually maybe go and do 3-5 more reps on top to the point I can’t do anymore, I feel so much pride and I get this really good feeling inside. My self-esteem is boosted and I feel like I can accomplish anything.
That’s what I felt like when I was studying for my degree. I felt like I was always more confident going into any subject topic that my lecturers presented to us because I knew from the bottom of my heart that I was going to do a good job of anything they threw at me.
I would have been lying to myself
There’s nothing worse than knowing you are being untrue to yourself. ‘To thine own self be true’ is what Polonius said in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and I live by this so much. This relates to what I said above about following your heart. You can try and convince yourself mentally that you made the right choice by going for the safest degrees and routes. You can leave your passions behind and work at a job that doesn’t give you any satisfaction. You can try and please your parents by completing a degree of their choice for you but at the end of the day, there’s nothing worse than knowing you’re lying to yourself everyday of your life by doing something you don’t love or ‘like’ even.
I was thinking about becoming a medical professional like many people I know but I can see the exhaustion in their eyes and sometimes, (I’m not saying this applies to everyone because I’ve met the happiest medical professionals too) I have been told by some of the people I know who are nurses or carers that they feel as though they don’t have a ‘life’ anymore. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing junior doctors quitting and saying that they’re suffering from depression. There’s nothing worse than nurses saying they put the health of their patients first more than their own. Medical professionals work long hours, often without breaks to even get a bite to eat or go to the restroom. I think that they are heroes and amazing people who are incredible members of our society and many of them, I’m sure, have so much passion for it and that’s why they can work through all the difficulties they face everyday. Imagine for a second , a life where you’re sacrificing so much of yourself for something you don’t have a passion for or love? This is what I mean about going for something you love because no matter how much or little paid your role is, if you’re doing something with so much love, you’re happy regardless of what your job role is.
You get to be a ‘MASTER’ of your subject
When you love the subject you want to study, you become inspired to master it. One of the books I love is from Robert Greene called ‘Mastery’. It talks about how the legendary, most successful and talented people in the world are actually those who started to hone their skills from an early age. They become masters of their craft and so no one ends up beating them. I actually believe that talents can be beaten by perseverance too. The more you do something, the more you become better at it day by day. Of course there’s a great saying which goes ‘Practice makes Perfect’.
When you don’t follow your heart and go for the same old secure route, you risk killing your dreams and not trying hard enough. I knew that I could spend 12 hours every day of the week writing scripts, learning my lines and going to singing, acting and dancing lessons but I knew that I couldn’t spend 12 hours studying for something I wasn’t passionate about.
Also, if you decide to carry on with your studies and want to pursue a Masters degree or even carry it on to Phd level, you invest all your time and hard work towards something you really love rather than something you’re doing just for the sake of doing it.
I’m not only proud of my degree, I’m also proud of the fact that I had the courage to pursue my passion. Not many people have the courage to go against the grain. Not many people follow their dreams.
No matter what, I can always look myself in the mirror and say I always stayed true to myself and followed my dreams with all my heart.
I wish for you to have the courage to do the same.