When I was 17 and on the verge of “growing up,” no one told me there would be nothing quite like the feeling of packing your whole life in one medium-sized luggage, a Kanken backpack, and an extra-large tote bag.
To leave one’s city for another stranger, more traffic-laden city is a challenge. Even at 23. I had to convince my clingy grandparents that I’d be fine, that this was only temporary, and that this experience will foster my growth. There were a lot of questions as to where I’d be living and who I’ll be with. I fielded the questions as generously as I could.
Two months in and I’m learning that it is an endurance test. In fact, everything is an endurance test when we come to think about it. But let’s go back to why I left.
Around the last quarter of 2019, I was offered an assistant gig for a little department in a production for an international TV series. The offer seemed once-in-a-lifetime and I was already mulling over leaving the city for half a year already, so I immediately hopped on the plane, my whole life in the baggage check, my last year in the university as a mass communication student behind me. As the aircraft taxied the runway, there was the horizon, foreboding. Everything I’ve wanted is before my eyes and my fingertips.
On the job and after work hours, I lived and moved and breathed alone. I did not have friends who I could casually chat with. This was my first time existing in a space with myself. I pitter patter, scream, even smoke indoors — no one would notice, no one would know. I’ve learned that it’s nice to keep little mundane secrets with myself. I’m my own best secret-keeper.
I’m learning that it is an endurance test. In fact, everything is an endurance test when we come to think about it.
In the mornings, since living alone, I learned that not only am I susceptible to the sun (or does the sun make waking up bearable?) but I am also susceptible to alarms and sleeping schedules. If I really commit to it. And when I commit to something I deeply believe in, that commitment tends to be steel-sure.
I also notice how the sun creates a visible patch that can only be seen in limited windows of time in the morning: a sharp, vertical patch that would make anyone who maintains an artsy Instagram feed freak out. All I’d need is a ready self-timer, stand idly by that patch, and my Instagram feed would look A-plus. Except I didn’t, because it was there in front of me, every single day I woke up. A reminder that there are some things we overlook when we grow familiar to them.
I’ve grown to love the humility of simple chores, like doing the laundry or going to the laundromat, which I’ve scheduled on the same day every week. Sweeping the floor seems more enterprising when done in the middle of a workday as a kind of rest in between tasks. Even garbage disposal, something that makes me aware of my own mess and grime, has surprisingly become a cool new thing I’m doing.
Some days I’d wake up to a closed window, no sun, the smell of rain and gusts of wind sweeping off the little seaside island. How weather affects me greatly. During those days, my bones feel creaky and I can’t bring myself to even pour hot water into my coffee.
But there are days when these wonders do not outweigh the terrible days of life. Some days I’d wake up to a closed window, no sun, the smell of rain and gusts of wind sweeping off the little seaside island. How weather affects me greatly. During those days, my bones feel creaky and I can’t bring myself to even pour hot water into my coffee. I teeter, lazy, half-asleep, not quite knowing what to do with my whole body. On days like this, I rarely exist as a human being. I still do work, though, but only within the confines of my own space. If ever work requires me to go outside, I always make sure not to dilly-dally and immediately go back inside. I recover by misting my room with bergamot, which, by the way, living alone has propelled me to do. I’m an essential oil tita now; there is no going back.
Living and being on my own for the past few months nudged me awake to what I was missing on: sweet solitude and the bliss of being. The way my hands tremble when I take a video of the sun setting down the horizon near a body of water. Or, the promptness of writing down the tasks for the next day on a yellow Post-It the night before even when, the very next day, I set out to accomplish those tasks and they turn out to be too much for my mental capacity. Even when more urgent tasks pop up in the middle of the day, via a text or an email, and I’m left questioning every item on the list. Even in those instances, I feel like the most perfect angel Earth sign to have existed who has everything together. Even when, in the midst of all of this, I pretend that I haven’t developed a habit of smoking indoors sitting on my chair, which allows me to chainsmoke, because, imagine the convenience.
It’s a little ironic now, how I’m writing this essay in the middle of moving back to my home city, where I won’t be living alone. Instead I will be with my grandma, in another room, where I will exist again in a once-familiar state of being stagnant, but with the experience and feeling of living alone in my heart. As a natural introvert, nothing compares to it. Even now that another person is in the next room, I practice the keenness and carefulness that comes with living alone. Having lived alone. I still dream of another stint at being and living alone—I crave and want it. And, as a true-born Capricorn, I’m bound to eventually get it. Like that Beyonce lyric that goes: I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it. Until the next endurance test.