Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Criticism

[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.]

I’m not supposed to write anything today. I’m dead tired, having had to enroll in the morning for my third year in UP. I’m double dead tired, having had to stroll about SM North Edsa in the afternoon with my ComSci ‘gang’. 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 ‘writer’ 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 let’s face it; for many of us the word ‘criticism’ carries sinister overtones. No merits, only demerits. For the layman, criticism is crap, or I’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.

“What’s this?! All you watch is basketball, nothing but basketball. You’re such a useless kid,” he growled.

Huh? So what? Give me my short summer break. After surviving a semester of hoop abstinence (resulting in my being a Dean’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 Jordan’s sport (though he dislikes the Chicago Bulls), who have known and claimed to be proud of my victorious semester?

But no, I wasn’t angry with him –- at least not yet. I was ready to let my dad’s comment pass, just to keep my promise to our parish priest that I’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.

“What you should watch is the ANC interview with Patricia Evangelista. Imagine -- the best English speaker in the world! You’re nothing compared to her,” he snickered while trying to keep our big, wacky Dalmatian from toppling him over.

That ticked me off. Hell, I didn’t even know Ms. Evangelista was to be interviewed. I’ve read and watched about her dazzling triumph as the world’s best English Public Speaker in the news tidbits on TV and dailies, and I have nothing against the girl, who’s a fellow UP student, a batchmate even. I’ve seen her quite a lot in the Palma Hall lobby. She’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 –- there’s my big problem.

I’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 don’t aspire to be the best. He always does that. Maybe he’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 tongue’s saying is just not true.

Contrary to my dad’s estimation, I want to be the best in the disciplines I’m fondest of, or at least one of the best. The best in basketball? No chance. I’m too short and scrawny. Asthmatic too. The best in Computer Science? I did get good marks in my classes, but I don’t love my course. I like ComSci, yet not enough for a heartfelt pursuit of excellence. I don’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? I’m truly, madly, deeply in love with writing, so I should be well-nigh proficient in this art, right?

But no. Problem is...writing’s not enamored of me. I’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 it’s the only way I’ll improve. Who knows? Maybe someday the line ‘I am the best’ 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 isn’t to be emulated, and my writing is run-of-the-mill, garden-variety stuff. I know I won’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.

20 Comments:

Blogger drakulita said...

He always does that. Maybe he’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 tongue’s saying is just not true.

I have also encountered being referred to as useless sometime in high school. The only difference is it came from my mom.

She still does tell me that nowadays although not as direct as before. It's just so disappointing to know that she's disappointed in me. =(

I never forgot that incident (and the others that followed) and it still haunts me up to this day. Ayan tuloy, there are times when I mutter to myself "I never liked her" which is actually a title of a graphic novel I own. Heheh...I know I should be ashamed of this but it hurts like hell when I remember and even though I should be grateful for her because I'm her daughter blahblahblah, the whole idea feels like crap.

2:14 AM  
Anonymous hera said...

if you don't hear it from your dad, then know this from your readers-- you're a brilliant and inspiring writer. you have to be the best only according to your own standards and not from others, even if they are your parents. :)

9:55 AM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

to drakulita: hehe...me, too. i got the fiercest of flak in high school. the expectations for me to perform well were exceedingly high, and i was just an insolent, indolent fool back then :D

and yes, those were the years filled with vast hurt and vast angst (if i'm angsty these days, you could just imagine how it was like then, hay). :)

3:00 PM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

to hera: you know, your words inspire me to do better. and yes, you're right -- i have to be the best only according to my own standards, and not from others. i'm such a fool for not realizing that much much earlier, haha. hera, thank you so much for cheering up the rainy day. :) i mean it.

3:02 PM  
Blogger bing said...

hi, i am a mother of two. i had this kind of a struggle with my daughter. and had learned so much from it. (imagine a mother still learning from her kids?) but then i believe in freedom of speech so my kids can really express what they want. when she got a low grade of 81 on her Geometry class against the previous 92 grade on the preceding grading, i was so furious that i told her that the subject is not hard for me and i know that she could do better than that. "I am not YOU!" are the words that spurted out of her mouth.

in fairness to your father, parents do always want the best for their kids. but sometimes their frustrations about themselves lead them to aspiration of fulfillment of their dreams through their kids.

you are a VERY good writer. keep it up!

11:23 PM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

to bing aka juliet: my deep thanks for your rationalization of the situation, hehe :D sometimes, my stubborn mind just refuses to acknowledge the good intentions that my dad has for me, cloaked beneath stinging words.

come to think of it, my dad used to torment me about my Math grades (which of course were my weakest)..and yes, Math is also one of his weakest disciplines. :D makes sense!

"you are a VERY good writer. keep it up!" maraming maraming maraming salamat po... :) you know, from time to time, i get somewhat depressed over my writing (to the point of giving up on the art). but then when people tell me they like my works, i just feel inspired. i feel i owe it to them to write more, to improve little by little the 'magic' of my pen (or the keyboard, haha). and so in the end, i don't give it all up. i write again. :D

1:15 AM  
Blogger ia said...

parents will never get over pushing their kids to go further because the future never made space for them.

she excused me when i got to high school because of the, uh, curriculum, but she never really dropped The Speech. and she has a requirement for me for college. one that i know i won't get.

at least i get to chuckle at my mother's sketches now. and at how she's begging me to do them instead.

and i'm not going to start on how i've told you a million times that you're a G-O-O-D W-R-I-T-E-R because you will always need these other people to believe that.

a* ***st y**'*e *o* ****ist. (i'll tell you sometime. now i have to censor things because of this blogosphere.)

10:09 AM  
Blogger transience said...

from every angle i look, you are still too hard on yourself. cut youself some slack, dear. you are very, very good. take it as you like it.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

to ia: "parents will never get over pushing their kids to go further because the future never made space for them." now that i think it over...this is true. now, will the future never make any space for me, too? a question worth asking.

thanks, ia-chan. :)

5:56 PM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

to transience: yup..i admit, in the whole world, I'm the meanest person to myself. i'm like that simply because...i've had too many failures already. i don't want to screw up again. :) but yes, i'd try to lessen the harshness i employ on myself.

thanks for the advice, trans. i appreciate it. a lot. :D

6:04 PM  
Blogger mai said...

Just remember my text to you. ;)

8:31 PM  
Blogger ia said...

geo: hindi naman siya maganda eh.

me: thank you, thank you talaga.

tama si mai.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

to mai: yep. thanks. and i'm glad you survived through it! (you know what i mean, hehe) :D

11:20 PM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

to ia: triskaidekaphobia. hehe. anyway, i still think she's beautiful :) ops, wag magalit..

11:21 PM  
Anonymous kai said...

hindi ko na mashado nabasa yun post mo coz ang haba pero nakita ko yun tungkol kay patricia evangelista at ayoko sa kanya. hahaha. whatever, ebs! i hate her. i bet you could have done the same or even better no! hahaha. i'm so lame.

anyways, hindi na ako mashado kinicriticize in terms of acads and shiat coz i'm like the bestest student na in our family. my mom complains that i'm such a slacker pero i've never proven myself kaya they don't expect much.

sometimes i think i hate having apathetic parents. when i get something i really strived for, it just merits the same reaction when i fail.

pero they do tell me that i'm fat all the time and i always talk back when they comment about it. sino ba nagpakain sa akin, anyways. fault nila yun! they should have starved me if they wanted a waifthin kid.

too much bitterness!

7:35 PM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

bakit nman? i think she's great :) neweis, to each his own opinion, ika nga nila. at di ako magaling sa oral english! written lang. nge. hehe.

pareho tayo. gaya ng sabi ko, this is an old essay. ngayon, onti na lang ang criticism kong natatanggap sa acads. i've proven myself. sa ibang aspeto naman ng buhay ang tinitira, hehe...e.g. panonood ng ganito-ganyang TV show, etc.

"they should have starved me if they wanted a waifthin kid." LOL! :D

9:29 PM  
Anonymous kai said...

you got me wrong, i have not proven myself. wala pa akong ginagawang maganda - kaya they don't expect, napagod na siguro. mwahehe.

well, i know her (personally) and she saks kak (not literally anyway)basta she was in ateneo (she was introduced to me as "ebs" like a month before tapos we had parties together, prolly shared a glass, went to the same events together, etc.) and i called her "ebs!" and i was so excited tapos she's like, "it's not ebs, it's trisha." and she made irap and basta. OMG! antipatika. hahaha, i get really pissed off by the littlest things. pwede naman kasing "uy, wag naman ebs, it's a petname" or something to that effect. anyways, our paths crossed again and she didn't have that many friends at that party and she was like so ohsonice to me. overdressed pa siya. haha, i'm so mean. she makes landi pa my friends. hahaha. :P (kwento ko na lang kung sino next time)

and i didn't like her speech. ewan ko lang kung may bias pero hindi lang talaga ako impressed sa content. sabagay, i didn't see her deliver it naman so maybe she did well, i wouldn't know.

or maybe i'm just bitter coz she landed that hosting job on breakfast and became an instant celebrity (something i despreately want to be). hahaha, pathetic koooo!!

well, totoo naman eh. if they fed me fish and gulay all my life eh di sana sexy anak nila. mataba kaming magkakapatid, they let us eat what we want, it's partly their fault!

2:41 AM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

to kai: sorry 'bout that :) neweis...baka nga napagod, hehe!

talaga? that's quite an eye-opener. baka di lang maganda mood niya. :p pero siempre, it's no reason to ruin the mood of other people. sayang. di lang niya alam kung gaano ka kabait. you could've been very good friends, malay mo! :D

hm. if they fed me fish and vegetables all my life, i'd be dead now. di ako kumakain ng gulay. :( sagwa, no? animal rights person pa naman ako.

3:10 AM  
Blogger claudzki said...

hmmm...so you're like this too with criticism huh? you remind me of my sister...but with her, even when it's constructive, she goes into this nasty raging fit our family has come to dub as "bitch mode"...

12:28 PM  
Blogger Corsarius said...

hehe. i've got friends who exhibit such 'bitch modes' from time to time. maybe i've got my own 'bastard mode'. but it only rears its ugly head when someone gives me a really destructive comment, as opposed to the constructive ;)

11:09 PM  

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