Some months ago, I immersed in an environment that wasn't much like what I had been used to. In my new playground, the girls wear pink and the boys wear blue. I had somewhat forgotten what “traditional” was like, coming from a place where gender, race, social norms and beliefs have transcended every line.
"You live alone?"
"You live without your parents?"
"You watched the movie by yourself?"
"You had dinner alone?"
"You still keep a planner? An actual, physical planner? What for?" "You pay your own electricity?"
There I was, somewhat a newcomer to the world of sheltered living, where even in this day and age, young, urban professional Filipinos get to have healthy lunches prepared for them by their respective yayas, they are fetched by on-call drivers, and they live rent-free in their parents' homes.
It wouldn't have been such a surprise if the age range wasn't between 25 and 30.
Pragmatically, it wasn't fair to see this breed of young adults as the norm in the Philippines, especially with our population leaning downward the heavier part of the triangle. Surely, there can't be that many of us (reformed spoiled girl, yo) in the country. Or is there?
Far from normal
When it comes to living independently, there are two sides to a very expensive coin. Where single people my age get to wake up in the morning with breakfast already prepared, I have to whip up a quick meal of toast and brewed coffee just before heading out – which I don’t get to do until I've washed the dishes, watered the plants and done a bit of laundry. Grocery shopping must be done every week to get fresh vegetables and fish. If something breaks, like a lock or plumbing or some appliance, the world is put on hold until those get fixed. Once everything is up and running, then I can carry on with my job, my responsibilities, and other things.
On the other side of this, every single thing I do and consume makes an imaginary kaching sound in my head. If I leave the air conditioner on for eight hours a night, that will be an additional PHP 120 on my electric bill. If I sign up for cable service, that would be between PHP 500 and PHP 700 (which I don't, as I don't even have a television). Every new bottle of bleach and cleaning materials is triggered by a conscious decision to buy them, realizing how those don't appear magically on the shelf as they seemingly did when I still lived with my parents. I know now that scouring pads do not replace themselves by the third month.
If I make a serious dent in my budget by buying a ridiculously expensive article of clothing on a whim, I would have to make up for it by going tipid-crazy with my social activities. Hence no PHP300 peso cocktails and champagne brunches for a month. I’d also have to be very careful in making decisions on whether to go out and endure the leg-numbing drive for a night out which I’d only forget about the next morning; or stay in instead, focus on my freelance writing projects, and earn money to put into my travel budget, especially now that I have a trip planned six months from today.
No looking back
There were times when I’d look back and wish that I didn’t have to grow up so early and live independently. That I didn’t have to nurse myself back to health whenever I get sick (or worse, injured).
But then I’ve realized how important it is to be where I am now.
Not everyone would know how to cook using the ingredients available in the fridge, nor how to clean the grout in the bathroom.
Not everyone gets the chance to learn how to scrimp when there’s a need to save, and how to compromise when, eventually, I decide to cohabit with someone.
Being independent has taught me to understand what I want and what I don’t want, and has taught me the important lesson of being responsible and accountable for every decision I make.
Those are lessons I am so happy I paid for.