In The School of Life, F is better than D

There was a time not too long ago that just about all the negative words the began with D governed my life. You name it, I went through it (death, depression, divorce, debt, devastation, disaster, dominance, disconnection, and so on). By the grace of God and the Universe, I got through it all, and came out a stronger woman on the other side of the tunnel, back into the light.

One of the books I’m currently reading about life, culture and history of Portugal summarised it all into 5 Fs – Football, Fado, Fatima, Food, and Family. I cracked up when I read it but then stopped and looked around me, at the life I have willingly surrendered to. I thought Germany was obsessed with football, but the Portuguese take it to a new intergalactic level with a passion equalled only by the Italians. I say this because the fans don’t get violent or banned like the English, and everything is solved here with food, family and friends afterwards. No hard feelings. It’s almost impossible to harbour hard feelings here, when you have so many reasons to smile and be inspired by.

In the academic world, a D means you barely made the cut with unsatisfactory and below average work, but you met the bare minimum. That pretty much describes my life in Berlin from 2017-2022. An F is a failing grade, meaning you didn’t even meet the minimum requirement or standards. In short, you fucked up, pardon my French.

To the Ateneans reading this, you will recall from our university days (when a few decades back) the infamous Philosophy final oral exams of Fr. Roque Feriols SJ, where he either nodded slightly if you passed, shook your hand if you passed with flying colours (which was a unicorn experience because it was so rare thing), or he simply stared and failed you. There was also the famous disdain for mixing languages, speaking Taglish in his class. You had to speak fluent Filipino or incur the wrath of the nonconformist professor. He threatened to fail anyone on the spot for using Taglish para feel na feel mo ang kapalpakan mo! (so you feel failure right down into your bones).

In the real world, however, at least my world, an F is everything I lost and am in the process of recovering or restoring – ok, so maybe I’ll eventually get crucified for saying that football is not a live-or-die thing for me, but I can live with it and get into the spirit of things. Fado, family, faith, food, feelings,fish (I know, I know, this is food too but to me it means so much more), and fun on the other hand, are components that are taking on new roles and dimensions. Family is at the crux of Portuguese culture, and this is something I identify deeply with, and miss terribly. I definitely admit to struggling with the loneliness in the evenings or weekends, feeling forlorn while the rest of the country is happily ensconced with their family and loved ones, but this is a conscious choice I made, and stand by it. I may not be able to drop in on my family unannounced or pop in quickly after work, but everyone is just a phone call or a message away, and that in itself is a great gift.

The last F that has taken me by complete surprise is fantasy. Those of you who have followed my blog for a longer time, know all too well that I often had huge gaps between entries, sometimes spanning even weeks. But ever since arriving here the creative juices have been flowing, and it feels different, new, and almost scary because it is an intensity that I have never felt before.

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