Thursday, July 04, 2002

Creative Writing

Just the other day, a friend of mine, Duke, told me how he wanted to take writing classes. His course was management so I asked him why he didn't take comm. or creative writing as a major. He replied that his parents wouldn't allow him as he had to take over the family business. It really surprised me that he was interested in my course. That reminded me of people's reactions when I told them I was in creative writing. Some were in Duke's situation, wherein their parents didn't allow them to take it. Others, while they loved the idea of taking such a degree, didn't think it was practical. There were also those who asked me what career I'd have once I graduated. Looking back at all that, perhaps I'm privileged to have been able to choose creative writing as a course.

I don't know if it's in the genes or the way they were raised, but most Chinese families have an orientation towards business, especially the males. When I was still in high school were most of my classmates were Chinese, a lot of them were planning to take business courses or were encouraged to do so. According to them, someone had to "take over" the family business once their parents were gone. Hence, perhaps 75% of those who graduate from Xavier run off to pursue a business degree. As usual, I was the exception.

Not all Chinese males are doomed to a fate in business. There's usually a way out that doesn't involve being cast out of the family. For me, it was an older brother. He's eight years older than me (I'll tell your another time the story of the "accident" that was us) and is currently helping my father. There was no pressure on me to take management or its equivalent.

That didn't mean there wasn't any pressure on me. Aside from my classmate's remarks about creative writing, my dad, who doesn't know how to use a computer, wanted me to take computer science. Perhaps that's the strange thing about Chinese parents. They don't ask their children what they want to pursue. Instead, they "order" them to take something very practical and one that earns money. My father's perceptions have always been clouded as such. I remember once when my father quit being a member of our church when he found out that our pastor gave up preaching in the US to preach here. His reasoning was that in the US, he was getting paid ten times of what he's been being paid here. For father, it was "unfair". Basically, what he wanted was for our church to match the pastor's salary in the US. Which obviously couldn't be done. And the pastor wasn't even asking for it. What father couldn't understand was that there's something more than money. To him, satisfaction is equated with monetary returns. But that's not always the case, especially for the pastor, and me.

From the start, I was intent on not taking a business course. I wouldn't allow my parents to take that away from me. I've had enough of their ordering around for the past several years and I was slowly standing up to them. And then, I was confused on what course to take. I had two choices: one was on psychology, and the other was on writing. Psychology because I understood people more quickly than others, and I thought it would have been interesting studying people's behavior. Writing because I loved to read and I was interested in publishing and other forms of media. When it came right down to it, I was in creative writing because of a choice not made by me but by the colleges. My first choice in UP was AB Psychology while my course in Ateneo was BFA Creative Writing. I didn't get into UP. That basically solved my problem of choice (on a side note, my course in DLSU was a double major in psychology and creative writing).

Of course before the results came out, I was already leaning towards writing rather than psychology. I was daunted by all the research involved in psychology as well as the lack of psychologists here. I mean most end up as either researchers, guidance counselors, or teachers. I also did end up knowing the difference between psychiatry and psychology last year and so I was probably thinking more along the lines of psychiatry rather than psychology itself. In the end, I was happy with writing since it's more natural for me.

Throughout all this, it also occurred to me how flawed the career programs of high schools are. I mean most are given during fourth year, when they've already filled up their application forms. It should start earlier. Ours was during our third year, so I had a year to think about what I'd pursue. Perhaps it could have been made as early as second year so that the person can deliberate on what course he'd like.

As for me, I have no regrets pursuing creative writing. In fact, if there's anyone having regrets, it's those who didn't pick creative writing. I like the course, although I honestly don't know what I'll do once I graduate. I do love writing and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I don't know if I'm any good but I have a passion for it. And in the end, perhaps that's all that matters.

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