STEPPING on the marbled floors of the Ayala-FGU Center building, but I a sense of unfamiliarity creeping in.

I breezed through the throng of people clad in crisp business suits while I struggled with my stilettos and pencil-cut skirt. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up upon the sight of K9 dogs sniffing at everything in sight.

I felt lost right in the heart of this fast-paced corporate jungle. I felt like a complete stranger in the midst of towers and skyscrapers dotting the stretch of the Ayala district.

Everyday, I have to take a 45-minute bus ride from Fairview to the Kamuning MRT station. I weave through familiar streets and avenues, with houses still wrapped in deep slumber, sidewalk vendors setting up their merchandise, and commuters waiting impatiently for a lift.

After that ride, I have to squeeze myself inside a jam-packed MRT train.

A few minutes into the trip and I find myself soaked in perspiration. Upon reaching the Ayala station, I still have to take another short bus ride. I always feel a sense of relief when my office comes into view.

I could still remember a question my boss hurled at me during my first job interview. He asked me how I would be able to handle a work that is too monotonous.

As an analyst, I would be constantly checking figures, graphical illustrations of global stock market indices, and report them to our counterparts in London.

I said that it depends on having the right frame of thinking.

“What then, would be the right frame of thinking?” he asked.

“Finding other means to inject flair into one’s work. Nothing is too plain for a creative mind,” I replied.

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My answers must have impressed him because right then and there, I was hired.

At this time of the year, job hunting goes into full swing. Most of the fresh graduates are still checking out the classified ads or dropping by job fairs. While some people have to contend with “we’ll call you for the results,” there I am seated at a corner inside a posh building gazing at the panoramic view of a maze of glass, steel, lights and concrete. I guess I am just lucky.

Snatches of my college days still flash in my mind from time to time.

I was so used to inhaling smoke-free air during my stay in the University that I almost forgot that nicotine addiction exists. In the corporate culture, smoking is a lifestyle. Puffing cigarette smoke, let alone holding a stick, doesn’t seem too tempting a thought for me. Smoking at the right place is tolerable but smelling a guy reeking of cigarette smoke in an elevator is another.

Looking back, I can only laugh at about the silly things that added a certain zing to burdens on college work. Silly things like daily trips to the washroom where I could exchange opinions with friends on how boring the class was or hear the latest gossip. In the office, you go alone unless you want to disturb someone who is busy doing an important work.

After a while, I tried to kiss everything goodbye, but it was easier said than done. It was like putting everything behind and just let it accumulate dust through the years. I know that I wouldn’t be able to get those memories out of my system.

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An AB Economics professor once told me years before I took that leap from college to the world of work that in college, we have to absorb facts before taking a test. In work, we just have to figure it out all by ourselves and apply what we already know.

It was only now that I was able to appreciate the weight of his words.

What he said was quite similar to an old adage: In school, we were taught lessons, then given a test. In life, we were given tests for us to learn our lessons.

Right now, I already yearn for those long, class breaks. I miss sitting in the cemented benches lining the field while basking in the glory of the afternoon sun. I miss those frequent visits to the chapel, which instantly make me feel like everything turns to a halt. I miss screaming my head off during the intramural games. I miss wearing my blue-and-white AB uniform. I miss the vibrancy of college spirit. But most of all, miss everything about Room 112—the place which became my safe perch and extension of home.

But then again, I always reassure myself—life couldn’t get any better than this. Anna Rachelle S. Ariola

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