The week I turned 22, an older officemate berated me for being proud of my budgeting app. I was told to “live a little.” She said, “When I was 22, all I ever spent on was books and booze.” Man, doesn’t that sound like such a dream? When I scoffingly told this story to a bunch of closer friends, they didn’t understand why I was being so sarcastic. They agreed with her. They told me to loosen up.
The thing is, I would like to but I can’t. Despite all the money I (semi-responsibly) pour into buying books and booze, there are too many other recurring expenses in my life to consider — rent, bills, groceries, laundry, and more bills. At the age of 22, most kids — and I call us kids because I honestly think that’s what we are — are still living comfortably at home with their parents. Sure, working jobs, but using whatever they earn as a substitute for allowance. They use their cash on nights out and new clothes and I can’t blame ‘em. I’d do the same if I could. Instead, here I am hashing out a personal essay in my 27 sqm rented apartment at 6 a.m., hoping to make a little cash on the side to buy myself something nice.
Because a huge chunk of my regular monthly salary goes to my rent and utilities — paying for a shoebox in Makati sucks beyond belief — I’m always on my toes, looking for freelancing opportunities. As a writer and graphic designer, those one-off jobs don’t pay much so I have to pile them up. This month, I juggled maybe three or four jobs and I still haven’t made enough to buy a nice sofa. Times are tough. But hey, this is the life I can afford. This is the life my salary allows me and there isn’t anything wrong with that — especially since I’m lucky enough to be doing what I love anyway.
I’d be lying if I said any of this is unwanted. As a headstrong middle child, I’ve always been the most independent among my siblings. That’s not to say I was the most responsible, I just preferred doing everything on my own and I hated having to ever ask for help. Moving away to be on my own was something I used to look forward to. I was always excited to design my own place and have my own personal space — of course money just wasn’t part of the equation in my daydreams.
There are days I wish I could hop on a bus and head straight to the province after work just to crawl in bed beside my mom and little brother or watch TV with my dad. There are days when I ask for less and wish I could sleep over at my sister’s condo in Quezon City just so we catch up over McDonald’s delivery. Where I live now is not a home, just a house. That sounds cliché, but it is what it is.
I haven’t had a real home since I was 16 (at least not in the traditional sense of the word) but the sentiment has never been more real than now. And I’m pretty sure shuffling back and forth and in between different spaces is bound to carry on for quite a while. It’ll take a lot of time until I can afford to buy a condominium that I can customize to my heart’s desire (goodbye, orange tiles), let alone a house to turn into a home.
The road will be long, that’s a given. The journey will be arduous, I’m sure. It’ll take a handful of salary increases and about a thousand odd jobs. I mean, this chapter of my life — adulthood, I suppose — has only just begun. I’ll get the hang of it someday, right? But hey, ‘til then, I have my budgeting app and a good head on my shoulders — maybe, just maybe, that’s all I need for now.