Monday, February 08, 2010

When the going gets tough, the tough get going?

Earlier today, the morning radio program I listen to daily got a caller who asked for a DJ's opinion on Talk N' Text's walkout during Game 4 of the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals. Another DJ interjected with a comment about how walkouts seem to be the trend recently, from basketball games to Senate sessions. That observation suddenly made me wonder if we Filipinos are cultivating-- if not already propagating-- a walkout culture. When circumstances become (or perceived to become) too unfair, uneasy, unpleasant or altogether unbearable, we just up and leave in a huff.

Back when I was still a high school teacher, we rookies were exhorted by some more senior members of the faculty never to walk out in the middle of a class, no matter how angry or upset we got. The explanation was, the second you walk out of the classroom, "ikaw ang talo". We were discouraged from letting any difficulty defeat us, or allowing our frustrations to get the better of us. Above all, we could not let our students see us give up, even if we wanted to show that we were seriously steamed. Walking out would deliver the wrong message about not only giving up on a tough situation, but giving up on them.

I understand the power of the emotions that compel and propel a walkout. Sometimes throwing your hands up and abandoning everything seems the only option available (it's either that or imploding). Sometimes you need to put some physical distance between the person and the problem, and get some room to breathe, and think. Sometimes you just want to tell the world you're really really pissed off, and you mean business. And sometimes the impulse to walk out even comes from good intentions: to protest a grievous ethical wrong, to stand up for a strong moral conviction, to prevent an already volatile issue from erupting, or to protect someone else from the damage or hurt you might inflict should you stay. Sometimes, walking out seems to be the "bigger" thing to do. But is it the right thing to do?

I've always considered myself a fighter, especially for people and things I value dearly. But it's that same passion that makes me get disheartened too quickly: when I feel like I've failed someone or something, it's painful for me to face it, and that's when the urge to walk out wells up. Most of the time though, I find enough strength to stick it out. I guess I'm too much of a fighter (or too much of a masochist) to throw in the towel and march off to the locker room with my head bowed. And I guess that's why in the 2 years I was a teacher, even on the days I felt like screaming and stomping out, I stood my ground. And I'm proud of that, that I didn't give up when times got tough. That I didn't give up on the kids I loved.

The cliche goes that the right thing is hardly ever easy. Walking out is not always easy, but I believe it is rarely right. Walking out is as good as quitting; it's a sign of weakness-- a weak character, and a weak spirit. When you walk out, you're surrendering what you believe in, what you value, what you love. When you walk out, it's leaving the fight unfinished-- it's losing without trying. Ikaw ang talo.

The fight may not always be fair, but at the very least see it through to the bitter end. Especially if it's something, or someone, worth fighting for.


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