[Another old post -- I hope you won't take my indolence against me. Written almost exactly a year ago. This essay's theme fits one of my recent moods. I'll post something cheerful and spanking new next time, when my body feels better.]
Iâ€™m not supposed to write anything today. Iâ€™m dead tired, having had to enroll in the morning for my third year in UP. Iâ€™m double dead tired, having had to stroll about SM North Edsa in the afternoon with my ComSci â€˜gangâ€™. As soon as I got home, all I planned to do for the evening was to have a good supper, plop down in front of the TV and watch Game 5 of the Lakers-Timberwolves playoff series, take a quick face-wash, then finally catch a six-hour sleep to prepare myself for another grueling enrollment day. Yet something happened along that planned schedule, something that even in my enervated state the â€˜writerâ€™ in me still wanted to scribble.
Something which they call criticism.
They say criticism is all about weighing the merits and demerits of a certain topic, person, work, or object. But letâ€™s face it; for many of us the word â€˜criticismâ€™ carries sinister overtones. No merits, only demerits. For the layman, criticism is crap, or Iâ€™ll eat my pen. But I digress.
Half-asleep on the sofa, watching the first half of the Lakers-Timberwolves game tick down to the final seconds, my father arrived from office amidst the fanatical yips and woofs of our four dogs. As I opened the door to let my dad in, he laid his eyes on the TV, and it all began.
â€œWhatâ€™s this?! All you watch is basketball, nothing but basketball. Youâ€™re such a useless kid,â€ he growled.
Huh? So what? Give me my short summer break. After surviving a semester of hoop abstinence (resulting in my being a Deanâ€™s Lister for the first time) and a grueling summer of Math 55 classes, I only had two weeks to reward myself for my perseverance and small triumphs. And now I get this from my dad, who of all people have seen me disappear from the world for several whole days (locked in my room studying for every big exam), who have shared my passion for Michael Jordanâ€™s sport (though he dislikes the Chicago Bulls), who have known and claimed to be proud of my victorious semester?
But no, I wasnâ€™t angry with him â€“- at least not yet. I was ready to let my dadâ€™s comment pass, just to keep my promise to our parish priest that Iâ€™ll practice restraint and calm. But lo and behold, my father followed up his jab with a furious uppercut, sending any Christian tendencies of mine out of the house.
â€œWhat you should watch is the ANC interview with Patricia Evangelista. Imagine — the best English speaker in the world! Youâ€™re nothing compared to her,â€ he snickered while trying to keep our big, wacky Dalmatian from toppling him over.
That ticked me off. Hell, I didnâ€™t even know Ms. Evangelista was to be interviewed. Iâ€™ve read and watched about her dazzling triumph as the worldâ€™s best English Public Speaker in the news tidbits on TV and dailies, and I have nothing against the girl, whoâ€™s a fellow UP student, a batchmate even. Iâ€™ve seen her quite a lot in the Palma Hall lobby. Sheâ€™s a pretty lady, and I only have admiration for her world-class feat.
There was nothing wrong about her being brought up. What my dad was insinuating â€“- thereâ€™s my big problem.
Iâ€™m not trying to be a paranoid git here, but I know my father. Yes, he loves me, but he also likes to point out that I donâ€™t aspire to be the best. He always does that. Maybe heâ€™s doing it for my own good, but hey, too much of a whipping tongue makes a child grow angsty and foul-faced, especially if what the tongueâ€™s saying is just not true.
Contrary to my dadâ€™s estimation, I want to be the best in the disciplines Iâ€™m fondest of, or at least one of the best. The best in basketball? No chance. Iâ€™m too short and scrawny. Asthmatic too. The best in Computer Science? I did get good marks in my classes, but I donâ€™t love my course. I like ComSci, yet not enough for a heartfelt pursuit of excellence. I donâ€™t see in myself the vaguest shadow of Bill Gates or Linus Torvalds, or even the Pinoy programmer who supposedly wrote the love-bug virus. The best in writing? Iâ€™m truly, madly, deeply in love with writing, so I should be well-nigh proficient in this art, right?
But no. Problem is…writingâ€™s not enamored of me. Iâ€™ve got a great deal of troubles in my writing; I keep producing pieces whose quality I doubt. If it takes me an hour to finish an essay, I can likewise waste a whole day of reading, re-reading, and revising it. Nevertheless, I still write. I practice, because itâ€™s the only way Iâ€™ll improve. Who knows? Maybe someday the line â€˜I am the bestâ€™ will cease to be a silly, delusional claim and turn to reality, and then my father would be mightily pleased.
So in the end, unable to restrain myself, I shot back at my dad (I forgot what I said verbatim) and went up to my room stomping, the combined might of his two criticisms making a mess out of my manly composure. I know my English is flawed, my speech isnâ€™t to be emulated, and my writing is run-of-the-mill, garden-variety stuff. I know I wonâ€™t win any Pulitzers for essays like this. So dad, quit rubbing salt in my wounds, okay?
Damn. Criticism can really cut you to ribbons with its razor-sharp truth.