I learned that…

By Jesus Dawal. Jesus is 24 years old and is a student at the Aquinas University of Legazpi. He lives in Legazpi City, Philippines

Nelson Mandela couldn’t have said it any better: I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

But to associate courage to the role of education was one thing; defining education was another. And I believe it is equally important to make sure that when we mention the word education, we are guaranteed that we’re on the same page.

It was really hard for me to connect the virtue of courage to education in itself. At first, I couldn’t, but after months of asking questions, I think I finally do understand how courage and education can be related. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever possible to separate one from the other.

I am 24 years old, and in our country I should already be earning for myself for about four years now. But the thing is, I’m still studying in the university. I wanted to pursue my passion for writing, so I left my first course, which was Bachelor of Science in Nursing, one year short from graduating.

Many of my friends are now professionals in their own right. Actually, there’s a big chance that next year, one of my professors would be my former classmate.

Nevertheless I still want to continue studying in the university, and I know it’s not going to end by the time I receive my degree.

It’s going to end by the time I allowed for fear to corrupt the best of me.

In the school setting alone, we can easily see the effect of fear on students: during examinations we see some try to cowardly cheat their grades, in one way or another. We cannot blame them, actually, for the world has taught us that the most luxurious places are those reserved only for the rich, the famous, and the powerful.

There’s no room for failure.

This is a sad reality because while well-meaning educators wanted the best for the students, but sometimes, out of vigor for excellence, some who don’t meet their expectations become branded as “failures.” In most cases, students are graded not for what they’ve learned, but for how well they were able to satisfy their professors’ requirements.

That’s why there are things you cannot learn inside the school. For some, dropping out of their classes means signing up for a different course, and their proof of completion is not a college degree, but a change in themselves.

An architecture professor explained to me her perception of education. She said that if each one of us was a building, then education is the foundation – the deeper it is, the higher we ought to expect the building to rise.

There were many times in my life when I wondered if I still needed to continue studying when there are other opportunities for me to become a good writer, aside from going to college. Last year I worked as a freelance writer at odesk for about three weeks. My employers said I was a good writer. But deep down I knew I still lacked something. It’s like I skipped something critical, that’s why I feel inadequate and incompetent in the online writing field.

It was character. And now I understand why I needed to finish my degree first.

In the classroom, I am mandated to listen as my professor discusses the subject. Not only that, but I can also learn about the experiences of my professor in light to the subject he’s teaching. That trains me to be humble and patient in learning from someone who’s younger than I. During examinations I am required to study hard, and that means discipline; I have to prioritize my studies if I were to expect to graduate.

Furthermore during exams I am encouraged to be honest and fair, and that requires nothing less than courage.

Courage because there’s a chance that what I’ve learned may not be enough for me to pass the subject, yet I will not cheat because I know that if I cannot be honest right now in the university, then how can I expect for me to be trustworthy in the company I’ll soon be working for? He who can be entrusted with little can also be entrusted with much more. The end goal is maturity.

Lastly, it takes courage to look at one’s grades at the end of the semester; I now know it’s meant to evaluate myself – if I was able to learn that much during the given timeframe. If I received a failing grade, it does not mean that I am dumb. Neither does it mean that I am a failure. It simply means that I didn’t learn enough.

In HBO’s Game of Thrones series, there was a particular instance wherein I found both an example and a further explanation of courage. Ironically, courage can be found in the most unlikely places.

“Why not? You won’t matter up there; you will down here,” protests Gilly.

“I am a man of the Night’s Watch, Gilly. I made a promise to defend the wall, and I have to keep it, because that’s what men do,” explains Samwell Tarly.

The night was old. It was nearing dawn, and as surely as the rising of the sun fast approaches, so was their doom.

One hundred thousand wildlings are getting ready to cross the Wall to escape from the Winter, and everyone in Westeros knew what that meant. It meant the chilly weeping of mothers over their dead relatives. It meant the burning of the dead bodies, so as to not add another corpse to the army of the White Walkers.

Winter was coming, and so was the death of all.

Pypar, one of the newest members of the Night’s Watch, prepares the arrows with trembling hands. After finding a safe place to hide Gilly and her baby, Sam, one of the most inexperienced, and the most unexpected persons to kill a white walker, returns to his post to accompany Pyp. In their conversation Pyp explains that he has never been properly trained to weld a sword or throw a spear. Then he asks Sam if he was not afraid at that moment.

“Of course I’m afraid,” Sam answers. He explains the looming danger ahead. Then Pyp asks how Sam had managed to kill a White Walker. “I didn’t know I was going to kill it.” He said. “But I had to do something; I didn’t have any choice. It was going to kill Gilly and the baby. If someone had asked me my name right then, I wouldn’t have known. I wasn’t Samwell Tarly anymore. I wasn’t a steward in the Night’s Watch or son or Randall Tarly or any of that. I was nothing at all. And when you’re nothing at all, there’s no more reason to be afraid. ”

“But you’re afraid now?” Pyp asks.

“Yes, well, I’m not nothing anymore,” Sam concludes.

For some, maybe, we mean nothing. But for our loved ones, we mean everything to the point that if we die, they will find it hard to carry on. That’s what we’re afraid of.

What if I had a glimpse of the future and found out that I wasn’t able provide for my future family? What if my learnings aren’t enough to prepare me for my career? There are many what if’s running through my head, but I still continue because I know that even though the future is scary, I need to be strong for the people behind my back who need for me to be. I have to protect them, and I have to make sure that even if I die sooner or later, my legacy won’t.

Fear is a funny thing; it wears a mask of uncertainty and rejection, but once it’s unmasked, we can find the courage to face it. That’s exactly what the role of education is.I have learned that education was not about grades, but about maturity. The educated man isn’t necessarily he who receives a bachelor’s degree, or passes a licensure examination, but he who presses on for a noble cause despite the temptation to take the easy way out of this life, because he is certain that the fate of others depends in part on how well he finishes his race.

7 comments on “I learned that…

  1. Zhe Nah Reyes on

    Fear is a funny thing; it wears a mask of uncertainty and rejection, but once it’s unmasked, we can find the courage to face it. – very well said sir 👏👏👏

  2. Catherine Sales on

    As an educator I feel what he’s trying to point out. Education builds the character, and that’s the essence of those years of rigid training.

  3. Jonas Sergio on

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Ned Stark even said that the only time when you can be brave is when you’re afraid.

    Nice write!

  4. Krystyn Banega on

    “The educated man isn’t necessarily he who receives a bachelor’s degree, or passes a licensure examination, but he who presses on for a noble cause despite the temptation to take the easy way out of this life, because he is certain that the fate of others depends in part on how well he finishes his race.” – this! 😀 clap clap


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