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How I learned to live on the margin

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THE AUTHOR’S collection of “surreal”moments during the first quarter DAVID ONGCHOCO

The first quarter of my senior year has just ended, and up to now, I still can’t believe that so much has happened in less than three months.

Quite honestly, I never expected to be able to go through these novel and unique experiences. From traveling to Singapore and Thailand to attending the Philippine Model Congress and my first-ever press conference on Kobe Bryant, the first quarter was filled with wonderful surprises that turned into memories I will forever cherish.

The two international experiences I had were definitely the highlights of my first quarter. Not only was I able to learn about bonds and mutual funds in the Investment Management Program in Singapore and the art of debate and proper discourse in the 1st Asia World Schools Debating Championship in Thailand, but I also got to meet unique and talented individuals from different parts of the world.

I was also able to learn more about the different cultures and practices that really widened my perspective and understanding of the world. To top it all off, I made new friends, some of whom I still communicate with, thanks to the power of technology and social media.

It’s amazing how I was able to experience all that, and so much more. It’s simply too difficult to put in words everything I went through in the last quarter.

However, I’d be lying if I told you that I was able to experience all that without  drawbacks. Everything has a cost, and being able to experience all this had a cost, too.

Catching up

When I got back to school, I had to catch up with the lessons and missed assessments, while also preparing for the final exams for the first quarter. There were moments I regretted missing so many school days and spreading myself too thin.

There were also times it seemed impossible to catch up. It seemed I had a never-ending pile of things to do when I got back from Thailand.

What made catching up even harder was shifting from one mind-set to the next. One moment, you’re immersed in learning about hedge funds, researching about the West Bank conflict, spending late nights preparing with your teammates and meeting new people from across the globe.

The next, you have to worry about acing your math test and understanding kinematics. In the first few days back, it was really hard to regain the mind-set needed for the daily school grind.

Because of this, I was forced to really lock down, manage my time wisely, make every second count and double the effort.

Fast-forward to three weeks and here I am, still in one piece, looking back and smiling at everything I’ve learned from that very tedious, mentally draining and mind-blowing process. But like they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Although my grades may have slipped a bit and my parents have noticed that I was a bit crankier and sensitive when I had to catch up with lessons and take numerous makeup tests during lunch and dismissal time, and even if I went through one of the most hectic weeks of my life, I have no regrets at all.

One at a time

Going through this really taught me the importance of tackling things one at a time. Sometimes, we overthink and make things appear harder than they really are. We condition our minds that we have so much to do when in truth, there’s time for everything.

Furthermore, I learned the importance of living on the margin. A lot of people these days always think of either the past or the future, forgetting to think about what matters most, the present.

Most of the time, we think of what we could have done and what we should be doing next so we forget to focus on the tasks at hand. This leads us to overthinking and stressing ourselves out unnecessarily.

One cannot live in the past or in the future, for at the end of the day, life truly is full of surprises. You can never really know what’s in store for you.

Four months ago, I was unsure what my senior year would be like after tearing my ACL, which subsequently ended my basketball career.

I was devastated and didn’t know how my highly anticipated senior year would be without basketball. Turns out, the saying, “When one door closes, another opens” couldn’t be more true. As long as we are willing to enter these new doors, anything is possible.

I’ve honestly never had a more memorable first quarter in my entire stay at Xavier School. And yes, when I look back on the first quarter of senior year, I won’t be seeing the numerous tests I took or the grades I got.

What I’ll remember are the surreal experiences I had, the new friends I made, the late nights I spent with my teammates prepping for a debate about Egypt and then drifting into deeper topics about life as we reached our limits and yes, the lesson-filled two weeks I had catching up with all the schoolwork I missed. These are things I will treasure for the rest of my life.

The high school experience shouldn’t just be about the books, grades and classroom activities; it should be more than that, for learning extends far beyond the boundaries and gates of our schools.

I’m truly blessed to have been able to experience a first quarter where I was able not only to improve my skills in taking tests in the classroom, but also to hone my critical thinking and public speaking skills, get a glimpse of portfolio management, and learn proper argumentation and discourse through the different experiences I had outside school.

Most important, my first quarter experience taught me how to manage my time wisely, make every second count and live on the margin!


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