Lesson Learned the Hard Way: Make Reading a Habit

La Liseuse (The Reader), 1776, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

La Liseuse (The Reader), 1776, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

One thing that I wish I had developed more as a child is the interest of reading. I was particularly an imaginative kid, full of daydreams about different worlds, changing personas, and composing conflicts and resolutions just for escape. Looking back, I find it as a wasted opportunity that, having that ability to create fantasy and wonder, I was not given a crutch to support that throbbing desire to dissolve into another world or cast a net to let my wandering mind be more directive. Large texts intimmidated me because at that time I really did not want to read textbooks assignments from school because I largely relied on the teacher’s explanations because of my preferred visual acquiring of knowledge. I always resorted to daydreaming instead of reading. Although I think that daydreaming is good, little did I know  back then that not habing the habit to read proved to be detremental to learning.

When I reached high school, I was submerged into an unfamiliar territory. I came from a school being a high achiever, mostly relying on teachers’ lectures and explanations, and eventually ended up as one of the top students of the batch. Now, at that high school, students were carefully selected for my high school and we were known to be a collection of smarts. I entered this revered science high school, mingling with people who were always on top of their games: know a lot, absorb information a lot, asked questions and raised hands for answers a lot, did homeworks and readings a lot. My lack of reading habit started to backfire. Everyone was raising their hands and excelling well in their studies. And I was lead into a dark path for relying most of the time upon teachers’ and classmates’ words of mouth. I lacked initiative, my mind did not understand complex information well despite the amazing visual memory I had. I could not connect cosequential and relating facts and not grasp reasoning well. I graduated high school, still not acquiring the habit to read and felt very miserably stupid.

College came, and the same attitude of still not wanting to read still persisted and consequences had became rough exponentially. It was the time in life when I was extremely conscious of my future, as it was a crucial transition from the educational phase to the decisive phase in future career directions, adding the fact that that future career would most likely be the source to feed myself. I had a hard time internally and officially branded myself as intelligent but really really stupid because of the same prevailing problems: lack of focus, inability to connect and build understandings among scattered yet related facts, and inexistent initiative to think.

Fast forward to two years before, I realized how I, joining a writers’ guild and befriending few artsy people, have surrounded myself with those who are interested with stories of escape and fantasy, same as I, but all of them seem to be faring well in their lives. I wondered why I possesed the same imaginative and inquisitive mind yet I don’t seem to grab information quickly.

It took a long time to observe everyone’s ways and like a glass crashing to the ground an internal breakthrough suddenly pinpointed the difference: everyone who I know reads. They read anything. It doesn’t matter if it is fiction or non-fiction. They read. It doesn’t matter if it is a textbook, a novel, or a self-help book. They read. But more than that… they read books with substance.

Aha! Then and there I vowed myself to read books as successively as possible. I challenged myself to read books of varying nature. I consulted self-help books, fiction, history, and also some academic textbooks and add to that a few internet and newspaper articles every now and then. Slowly did I noticed the changes that occured.

Reading taught me to communicate. The more I read, the more I can communicate. It is not just about the vocabulary that I hone everytime I read a new sentence and encounter a new word which can be looked up in a dictionary. It is not just about applying the same word in writing essays or in conversing with people. It is not just about to understand jargon and cultural context in varying situations. It is the full knowledge and confidence I gained that made me think highly of myself. Every time I read, I feel my brain getting heavier and I imagine the mechanics of my brain getting more complex.

Reading taught me to be imaginative. It taught me to construct from something as limiting and abstract as typed symbols into fantastical worlds and visions, it helped me imagine concepts and how one theory ties in with another theory, and most importantly, it helped me to feel and understand new situations and enter into a renewed kind of perspective. It taught me about each varying person’s socio-economic context. It to empathize and think. It taught me to think and be ideal. It taught me to translate those ideas into action and spark change.

Lastly, reading taught me to aspire for more. I have met individuals along my soul-searching and found out (and was intimidated by) how less I have learned through the years. I found out that reading creates a multi-faceted person because of the open-mindedness it cultivates. I found out that we can break tradition and norms in so many ways possible. I found out that it empowers you by knowing a wide range of possibilities ahead. It has, at least slowly as it is, changed me into a determined, active, and directive person.

I remember my professor back in college who encourages us to read if we feel we do not grasp any theoretical concept. At the time, I had shallow understanding of what she meant. As her advice resonates within my head I defenitely know now why she encouraged us so. Although I realized how lacking I am still when it comes to a multitude of information, knowledge, and skill, it is not too late for it gives me a drive to be a better person for now I have found out a secret weapon. It is through reading that our mind’s gears are turned, not matter how unoiled and rusty it may seem. Constant reading polishes the system of thinking, a manner which, if practiced perpetually, will make the gears act upon themselves, and, eventually, curiosity, initiative, creativity, and resolve will come after.

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Standing Out Seems Uncomfortably Wrong but Totally Okay

Standing out yet isolated and lonesome. Really?

Standing out yet isolated and lonesome. Really?

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.” 

–  Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken

I often ask myself why I feel like a fish out of water most of the time. There is disconnection from most people in my age group. I have wisdom and disposition way beyond my years and I feel iffy about it. The interests that I partake seem to be of no importance to others. Then, after I searching deep within me for answers, I came to realize something. There is nothing wrong with being different. There is no need to be like everyone else. It is one of the tools we need to spark change.

I need to remind myself that people are different from each other. Each has his own quirks and idiosyncrasies. People are gifted in certain ways. Some have things that you want but you don’t have. The same goes vice versa: you have something that other people do not have. I just need to figure out what I am good at and just stick to it. In the long run, this something will become my specialty and defining quality.

I still have to find a community that supports me. It may be true that the five people we spend our time with most are the ones who influence us. I have to be selective of my friends. It is quite harsh but effective. I need to veer away from people who drain my energy and positive attitude. I want good role models who achieve and give back. I need a group which prioritizes hard-work, passion and happiness. This is a move that can bring me into great heights of success and fulfillment.

Ultimately, I must never lose the sense of myself. It is easy to be caught up by the rushing waves and then let destiny decide. But doing so depletes my power over me. Only in being true to my decisions will I be free and certain of where I think I am heading. I will get hold of the wheel and steer it to the right direction. I am worthy of having been given a life and having a sense of individuality. Having the clarity of mind will make me think for myself and not just follow what society imposes.

At the end of the day, it is no use changing myself just to please people who do not care about me. I just have to let my personality shine through and I don’t have to worry anymore. Given the unconventionality I possess, I just need focus on the things that are important to me. The ones who will stay will be there to support me. Once I have a sturdy platform, I can truly make a stance, do what I want without self-doubt, and eventually affect a difference.

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Roland Andre Malic is a creative writer and blogger who took writing and speech courses in TalkShop, under the mentorship of Sheila Viesca, TalkShop’s CEO and Director of Communication. Still finding out his niche in life, he is on the way to self-discovery by traversing creative ventures, a step at a time, which include writing and blogging. He also finds joy in watching mind-boggling films, reading about art and history, and exploring musicians and artists from eclectic genres.

The Zero Hero?

This is 00000000000000ver the top

This is 00000000000000ver the top

I always tell myself I deserve a quality education from a good school. However, there is a miniscule reason that does not permit me from doing this: a seemingly unnoticeable but heinous and scandalous *insert profanities here* ZERO. My failure back in college only happened once due to low self-esteem and self-imposed anxiety. The grade given to me was understandable if you really knew what happened during the state that I was at. Eventually, I learned to cope a bit and regained my momentum in an almost hopeless frame of mind. However, it did not affect me at first. Slowly, it began to sink in. It acted like a brand, a permanent stain in me. Suddenly all the application processes of my intended second degree courses demanded a preview of my grades to be subjected under extreme scrutiny. The special intelligence and passion suddenly drops down. Deflates. Nil. Zero. Nada. Nothing. My head up in the clouds suddenly smashes into a million pieces on the ground. It degrades and rots in me to the core because that time I did not know of the consequences of my supposed wise plans. I was a stupid naive boy with no vision and made irrational immature decisions. Yes, I was able to nullify its weight on my cumulative grade just to find out that it is of no effect in my “academic standing.”

Then looms my inadequacy. I could not keep it off my head. That scandalous piece of number hidden within the transcript of grades. It nauseates me. It debases me and makes me want to rip myself apart. This reaction maybe over the top but I know you could understand why I feel this way. Why would someone discount a person when he fails just once?

But then, the world is not a nice place. You cannot really ask it all with arms wide open. Those who can act happy and pleasant get all the great attention. And the ones who are affected by neglect and hatred are misunderstood and stereotyped. Is this what my world has come to, embittered, despaired, and stuck?

I often ask myself a list of good qualities I can offer to the world. But all the shitty decisions I made before just sailed me further away from all the possibilities and opportunities. My situation demotivated and annoyed me. Now, I suffer the consequences.

Really? Is there no hope left?

I paused after writing that previous line. Is my worth actually reduced into this number? Is my value really synonymous to nothing? Will I let my actions and decisions be mediocre because of the mediocre actions of the past? Will I let this symbol of non-existence pull me down and define me? Am I actually agreeing to this?

I do not think so.

I remembered why I have learned to write in the first place. I forgot to look at the other exits. I forgot to be resourceful and strategic as most of my blog posts advice. I have no art degree but I am smart and eager to learn. No amount of beating will keep me from being true to myself. My personality is throbbing to burst out despite all forces of nature to mask it.

I read about short courses, diploma and certificate courses. Our lives are based on how we navigate through the waters and not on the tangible achievements we make. At the end of the day, we will die and rot and people who know us will move on and forget about us. Why not be a manufacturer of inspiration? If not for others, can’t I improve things for myself?

A simple snap disrupted my anxiety. I just have to swallow my pride and verge into the unknown. I will not let others define me. No person, circumstance, or tiny piece of zero in a transcript of grades will ever define me.

I know I can do this. I have to do this. I will do this.