Art was never a strong subject in school and I always marvelled at those who could create beautiful designs on a canvas or a simple piece of notepaper. I never excelled in it but my artwork was passable, I think, especially when it came to painting still-life.

Our final assignment, which would weigh heavily on our grades at the end of the school year, was silkscreen printing. I had no interest in it. It seemed complicated to me. And when one is half-hearted about accomplishing a project, it is usually never completed or not completed well.

I had no one to blame but myself. At the last minute, I sought the help of a classmate and even went to her home to finish the project. I remember the frame which held the material together, and the ink which we had to press through to create the pattern on the material. It didn't seem very difficult and I did it because I had to. But something must have happened later because I either didn't hand it in on time or I didn't hand it in at all.

I was indifferent to the whole experience. I was sixteen years old and the final results would determine whether I would go on to higher education or a vocational school or ... ? Was there a third alternative?

When the examination results came out, I discovered that there was no grade next to my Art subject except for this word: Absent. If I had handed in my project on time, surely I could have at least received a passing grade. As it was, I could only say bye-bye to Art and put the whole experience behind me. I did manage to graduate but not very well, sad to say. I did very well in English (which was very lucky, I think, and for a while I kept focusing on that one grade, silly girl that I was) but overall, my grades were not good enough to advance me to that much sought-after Pre-University education that some of my classmates would be going to.

Some time later, my mother enrolled me in a private college so that I would receive the education. The fees were higher, of course, but she and my father were willing to do that for me. And, if I remember correctly, it was also during that period that one of my male cousins asked why I wanted to pursue higher education while we were having lunch together at my aunt's place. I don't remember my answer, or if I answered at all, but his sister said that I wanted to broaden my horizons and teased her brother about his scholarly pursuits. Perhaps I did want to broaden my horizons and perhaps I even broadened it a little bit. But only a little. And of course that wasn't enough.

It was a strictly academic environment at that college; there were no clubs nor after-school activities that I knew about, not that I would have joined them even if there were. It was co-educational, another whole new experience after having studied in a convent. I hadn't attended a school for girls and boys since kindergarten. There was a relaxed atmosphere about the place but, at the same time, it was also a little stifling, not a proper campus, that sort of thing (as if I knew what a "proper campus" was like). And, once again, I wasn't a good student and didn't apply myself as well as I could have. And should have. I made a few good friends during my six months at that college. But it wasn't for me. I wanted to leave. I felt that I had to leave. And since all I really wanted to do was write, I decided that I would be better off trying to find a job with a magazine. And it was then that I made that phone call to my father at his office to seek his opinion. He knew I wanted to be a writer and whether he should have or not, he gave his approval and I left college soon after. And not long after that, within the same year, my father passed away.

With my lack of academic qualifications, did I think that I would be able to find any sort of writing job, not to mention the obvious lack of writing experience?

Art was one of several subjects in school and yet I think about it the most when I think about that final exam. That dreaded silkscreen printing assignment ruined it for me. No, I ruined it for me.

And when I looked at my school certificate recently, a sadness came over me. It was such a long time ago, certainly, and yet it still feels so fresh and new as if it was ... a long time ago.

I am not that girl of sixteen (nor seventeen) anymore. She knows better now. She is more learned now in ways she never thought she would be. And she can once again reach for that goal that once seemed so unattainable, although at the time, I don't think I ever saw that goal in my future.

But now she does see it or, at least, the possibility of it and she starts to wonder if she can ever reach that goal but she knows that would only add to the uncertainty. Instead, she sits and writes this page, having put away that school certificate that she received more than twenty years ago. She feels ancient. But she knows she's not. And she will never again rummage through her papers to look at that certificate again. That one time was enough.

But maybe there will come a day when she will look at that document once more. One day ... in the future. One last time. And maybe even smile before putting it away again.



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"Screen (or silkscreen, as it is sometimes called) printing primarily uses a hand or electronically-prepared stencil. The part that is to be printed is made up of silk, nylon or a stainless-steel mesh. Ink can pass through this area but not through the other part of the stencil which is contained inside a frame. The printing surface is placed under the frame on a flat surface. The impression is made by forcing the ink through the screen area with a rubber squeegee."

(From My Design Primer)

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