When I was in my first year in college, my publications adviser encouraged me to participate in a prestigious writing contest for our country – the Carlos Palanca Awards. At that time, I didn’t understand the gravity of his suggestion so I took it lightly. I did join that year for the short story category but I only ever got to finishing my work a few days before the deadline because I kept putting it off. He never even got to read my work to suggest ideas. I lost, of course.
I tried again during my second year. Again, at my adviser’s recommendation. I can’t even remember what happened that time, probably because I don’t want to remember how I failed him again.
After that, all I remember was finding it hard to trust my writing. And, when I found out how big of a deal the Palanca really was, I detested my carelessness even more. I felt like I disappointed him. He probably saw something in me and trusted me to make the most out of an opportunity and I failed him. That notion stuck. I was a failure. I never expected anything for myself and it hurt because he did and I didn’t deliver. I’ve been beating myself up for that for years.
Whenever I think of the Palanca awards, I associate it with that feeling and because of that, I rarely ever thought about that contest. It became glued to my head, that I would never be a writer good enough for that kind of standard, and soon, the idea became good enough for me to just move on.
It was only recently that I started believing in my writing again (as in really believing in it and not nodding mindlessly at compliments I received because of it). I’ve been guided well by the people around me, I’ve learned a lot from working at my school publication and I’ve found my distinct voice. I know that a lot has happened.
Because of my new-found confidence, I had a different experience when I encountered the Carlos Palanca website whilst surfing the internet. Instead of shying away from it like I used to do, I was stuck looking at the contest regulations.
I thought to myself: Why did I ever give you up? I didn’t have to.
I didn’t have to stop trying. I didn’t have to be so afraid of failing. I didn’t have to let go of that dream because of my fears. He didn’t ask me to. No one did.
Winning a Palanca has been my secret dream, not because I wanted the title but because I wanted to show my adviser that he was right to choose me, that there was in fact something in me that he saw. (He’s passed on now and that’s sad but he isn’t the kind of person that would like to see me succumb to my insecurities even if he’s gone.)
I’ve been so caught up with dread, with my own thoughts against myself that I’ve actually inhibited my growth as a writer. But, I’ve been through a long journey, right? Maybe I can trust myself this time, right?
I don’t want to feel like I’ve killed a part of me because of my uncertainties ever again. I hope I won’t have to kill any more of my lights. I might fail and I might disappoint a ton more of people but I want to fight for my dreams.
No one asked me to give my dreams up.