6 Signs That You’re Following Your Dreams

Upon reaching a pivotal point in your life, whether it is an ending or a beginning, it is inevitable to start grappling with the big questions that will steer the course of your life. Some of these questions may include: Where am I now? Where am I going? What do I want to do with my life? How will I achieve it? These kinds of questions require no small amount of introspection, but, once decided, can ultimately spell the difference between a life that is filled with routines and half-hearted passions and a life that is filled with adventure, promise and satisfaction.

Sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it? Where do you even begin sorting through your childhood dreams and fitting them into the enigma of tomorrow, filled with research papers and grades and whatever else reality decides to dump on your to-do list? The days of playing pretend and dress-up where all you needed were a fake stethoscope and a white dress to make you a certified doctor are over. Well, I found the answer to this as I was leafing through the brochures inside the guidance office. 

Upon reaching a pivotal point in your life, whether it is an ending or a beginning, it is inevitable to start grappling with the big questions that will steer the course of your life. Some of these questions may include: Where am I now? Where am I going? What do I want to do with my life? How will I achieve it? These kinds of questions require no small amount of introspection, but, once decided, can ultimately spell the difference between a life that is filled with routines and half-hearted passions and a life that is filled with adventure, promise and satisfaction.

Sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it? Where do you even begin sorting through your childhood dreams and fitting them into the enigma of tomorrow, filled with research papers and grades and whatever else reality decides to dump on your to-do list? The days of playing pretend and dress-up where all you needed were a fake stethoscope and a white dress to make you a certified doctor are over. Well, I found the answer to this as I was leafing through the brochures inside the guidance office.

College.

The next rite of passage on the bucket list of my life.  Now, before junior year, I had assumed I would be going to one of the big four—namely UP, Ateneo, La Salle or UST—as my sister did before me and practically everyone else I knew. However, as fate would have it, an idea began to slowly plant itself in my head, being nourished by the cold, dry, foreign air I first breathed in England while on a summer program. Why not try going to college abroad?

That was the dream. Now all that was left was for me to do was to follow it. Because the whole process was one very long, exhilarating ride, I’ve decided to illustrate a step-by-step guide on how exactly I got from Point A to Point B (and everything in between), slowly but surely reaching my goals one step at a time. 

  1. Researching is (arguably) fun for you

    The bane of my existence, how do you confound me so? I know many people would nod/shout/tweet (if that’s your thing) in solidarity with me as I say that research is hard. High school did not warm me to the beauty that is Google (though Wiki Answers continues to be one of my most visited pages) but college searching definitely did. Who knew you needed to know so much statistics like SAT range and Acceptance rate? The local schools definitely didn’t need it. However, since I didn’t have the home field advantage, I had no choice but to do the work and gather the information I would need. It turned out to be a lot of fun, cruising through the different schools that gave financial aid to international students like a shopping catalogue and having eight different tabs with eight different schools, all on their admissions page, comparing rates and requirements and advantages/disadvantages. This was crucial, as my school didn’t necessarily prioritize students applying abroad. The first time I heard of the SAT was through the College Board website, which I had Googled after seeing it mentioned in College Confidential (a forum that helps incoming college students learn more about their prospective schools).


  2. You are networking (and/or making friends) that share the same goal

    It was through my research that I stumbled across the College Admission Mentors for Peers in the Philippines, a student-run organization that helps Filipino students with their application process. CAMP has done a lot of wonders in helping me fill the gaps in my understanding of college abroad, mostly because they themselves are Filipino students who are now studying in other countries. Their advice and patience have been endless, and through them I was able to meet people who also share/have shared the same dreams that I do. Personally, I think it’s vital to reaffirm your dreams by talking to people who have already achieved it, listening to their feelings and new set of problems/challenges they must face. It helps you understand that there is a difference between dreams and reality, and merging them together can give you all the happiness in the world or it can slap you in the face with crushing disappointment (or both, there’s always that option). Either way, hearing it first-hand from them has strengthened my resolve and simultaneously sobered me from my unrealistic fantasies of what living my dream would be like.
    Another benefit is making friends. During my junior year, I became close to two classmates who also wanted to apply abroad because we could share our dreams and experiences. We understand each other in a way others don’t, and it helped me feel less alone about my struggles, especially since most of my classmates don’t even know what the SAT is. Forming a support system is not only very cathartic but can also gain you friends that can last for a long time, as you all look towards the same future with unbridled hope and fear. It’s nice to have a hand to hold (or a phone to call if you’re not into the touchy-feely stuff) to help you through your weak moments and to share your successes.


  3. You are making new memories

    Well, technically, you make new memories all the time. But it’s different in a way, because these aren’t the same as when you go out with your friends or go to prom, like the memories everyone else will make. These are your memories of the things you did in order to fulfill your dreams. One memory that comes to mind is the day I took my SAT. A friend of mine whom I had grown distant to because of her transferring of schools asked if she could share a ride with me, as the distance to the testing center was pretty far. With the long car ride ahead of us, we were able to reconnect and catch up on what’s been going on with our lives. I was also reunited with a few more friends once we got to the testing site, and met new ones along the way. The whole experience was terrifying and amazing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    Another memory was when I went to Makati to visit the EducationUSA center there. They are a good source for information on college abroad, and I got to hear speakers who’re from Ohio, New York, etc. I don’t normally go to far places without my parents watching my back, so it was pretty exciting to do something that was only for me. The same goes with the CAMP talk I got to attend in UP, where they gave comprehensive talks on the different aspects of the Common Application, and I got to meet a lot of people from different schools. It was inspiring to hear their stories and see their personalities, because in a way it was already broadening the small world I used to live in and extending to make space for new people and new experiences, which was exactly what I wanted.


  4. You are confused about 70% of the time (and then you’re not)

    The pros and cons list is officially my new best friend. I make them all the time. To some this may be a sign of second-guessing my dreams, and you’d be right. Is this really what I want? To be separated from my family about three fourths of the year? To barely see my old friends from high school and increase the chances of losing touch with them? Really? I think about these questions all the time. But instead of losing sight of my dreams, it strengthened my resolve. I guess you can compare it to a test of faith. How do you know how strong your faith is if you don’t question it? Besides, I’d rather think about it now than ignore my fears only to realize later on that this wasn’t what I wanted after all. In a way it’s like making your dream foolproof against any attacks, thickening the walls that encase it so that if anyone does try to attack, your dream would be protected in a safe, sure part inside of you that can only come from having already overcoming the fears and uncertainties to know that no matter what, even if you do end up failing or if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, there will be no regrets.


  5. You learn about sacrificing—for yourself

    Many of us are familiar with sacrifice—but usually in the context of other people. While this is the most visible kind of sacrifice, there are also the ones that you make for yourself. In Economics, the term for it would be opportunity cost, or the cost of doing something and thus foregoing all other options. This happens all the time, every time we make a decision. By doing something, anything, we keep ourselves from doing something else, and so we don’t get to enjoy the benefits of any of the other options.
    Going abroad isn’t for everyone. If you get homesick too easily, or if your family can’t handle it, then it might be best not to go. If you think you’re not ready to handle it, or you know you don’t cope well in a new environment with new people, then maybe you shouldn’t go. Letting go of a dream because of the limitations set by reality can be painful, but it’s always important to decide whether or not what you’re gaining will be worth the price of what you’re letting go.
    Similarly, people who decide to go abroad will also experience letting go. I understand that I won’t see my family very often, and I won’t have time for my friends because of the time difference. I’ll miss family gatherings and dinners, “barkada” blowouts and the simple sense of belonging, hearing the familiar slang of the Filipinos enveloping me like a security blanket. I’ll have to live with these, the could-have beens, as everyone before me has done and everyone after me will do. I also learned about toeing the line of selfishness and selflessness, about the things I have to do for myself and the price that not only I will have to pay but everyone else around me, my family and my friends. Which one do I prioritize? How do I know the right thing for me to do? These are questions I still can’t answer and probably won’t be able to until I’ve sealed the deal, and in the end I can only trust myself to do what I think is best, and hope that it’ll be enough to carry me through.


  6. Even if your life hasn’t really changed yet, you have  

    By actively taking control of your life, you start to change. I know I did. I became more driven, more purposeful, more hopeful about what life has to offer me and what I can offer it. I became more satisfied as I saw visible results that I worked hard to get. I became more animated as I spoke about my dreams and passions, what I dreamed of when I closed my eyes and became less concerned about what other people would think of me. I learned how to start conversations in person and on Facebook, how to be polite and concise while still being casual, adding a smiley here and there for effect. I learned to wonder, to dream, to think, to question, to doubt, to accept. Through all this, I got to know someone I didn’t really pay much attention to before but learned to understand and love all the same—me. 

Kelly dela Cruz graduated from Saint Pedro Poveda College in 2014.