I like to describe the phases of my life with fictional characters. I was Jo from Little Women in my teens; Andy from The Devil Wears Prada in my mid-20s; and Carrie (minus Mr. Big and the glamorous closet full of clothes) now that I've finally hit the big 3-0. These women all share a trait I relate to: They all have big dreams—and they all went for 'em.
And just like them, I've had my fair share of dramatic plot twists. Arguably the biggest one was when I moved away from home at 19.
I was out for dinner with some college friends when I suddenly announced that I'm going to move out from my parents' house. As someone who followed a routine, stuck in the same place for almost two decades, I just felt fed up that night. My friends looked at me like I had grown an extra head—and really, I couldn't blame them. One of them very kindly pointed out the obvious: "You're literally a 15-minute drive away from campus." I shrugged. Another asked, "What’s wrong?"
I was 19. I had crazy ideas. And I was lucky enough to have a family who respected me enough to let me explore them.
I didn't answer because I knew that I would sound crazy if I had. "I feel suffocated and restricted, and I just want to get out of my box." Too cheesy. But that is exactly why I wanted to do it. I was 19. I had crazy ideas. And I was lucky enough to have a family who respected me enough to let me explore them.
When I first told my parents, they were confused and worried. Why on earth would you want to get an apartment that you'll have to pay rent for when you can literally live at home for free? It just didn't make sense. But it felt right at that time, and since I was already earning at 17 (I was working as a freelance writer back then), my family hesitantly let me do what I wanted. So off I went to rent an apartment across my university.
A quick lesson I learned: Freedom is ADDICTIVE.
For the first time in my life, I could go home as late as I wanted, decide what to eat on a whim, and not worry about missing the last trip after a late-night meeting because I can walk home. My parents would visit me a few times a week after they get off work to check on me, but I also had my own time to explore my independence. The setup was weird but it was ideal.
Ironically, the best result of my big move is becoming closer to my family. As a teen, there were moments when my rebelliousness hurt us hard. My moving away from home broke their hearts, but it was also what we needed so we could appreciate each other more. Living on my own terms gave me a deeper appreciation for my family because they weren't always within reach.
As it turns out, that wasn't my only spur-of-the-moment decision when it came to my living arrangements. The next one came three months after I graduated, when I got an offer to work in the metro. I'm the type of person who has a pretty clear vision of what I want: I wanted to work in a big city, and I wanted to write.
And that is exactly what I did. The job itself wasn't perfect, but I decided to accept it, thinking that it would be a great stepping stone for my career. I remember looking up at the towering buildings from the cramped bus the same day I accepted the job offer and thinking, "This is where I want to be." That same day, I told my parents I am moving again.
It wasn't as big of a deal as moving to a different country, but it was life-changing for me. The decision, the pace, I did all of them without thinking twice—even if they were almost impossible logistically! I had exactly two days to look for an apartment and move. The same weekend of that week, my friends and I went hunting for an apartment in Makati. Then we packed everything from our apartment back in the province in a small van and moved to Makati the same morning of my first day of work. I didn't even sleep. Two days and a small van—that was all it took for me to leave the comfort zone I grew up in.
Being set on the life that you want and taking the first step towards it is one thing, but that is not where the story stops. You also have to be willing to actually live it.
Moving to the city taught me a different lesson: It taught me that stepping out of your comfort zone is painful and uncomfortable—I remember breaking down the first time I had to walk in a flood and almost being pushed off the bus during rush hour—but it is what I needed to grow. Being set on the life that you want and taking the first step towards it is one thing, but that is not where the story stops. You also have to be willing to actually live it.
I've moved to a different condo unit now; I've been living on my own for the past three years. This time, I was smarter about it—I asked all the right questionsa about location, security, transportation.
I have been financially independent since I was 17, but that doesn't mean I don't struggle with budgeting. I have never considered my parents as my safety net, though, because I don't want to put any burden on them. This mindset has been my motivation to make sure that I manage my money the best way I can. Here's a brief look at my monthly expenses:
- Rent - P14,000
- Water - P300
- Electricity - P600
- Grocery and daily allowance (including commuting) - P12,000
- Phone bill and WiFi - P4,000
- Life insurance - P1,500
- Other subscriptions - P600
Right now, I make sure to move things around and pay my bills as soon as I get my paycheck, so I can have a good look at what's left and how much I can save and spend. I also have other freelance projects to help keep things afloat.
As for the challenges, I find the smallest, most mundane ones to be the most trying sometimes. When you're at home, you can usually ask someone to help fix a loose pipe or change a busted bulb. So the first time I had to change the light bulb in my living room, I felt close to death climbing that ladder. Then I remember dancing around after I turned the light on. I did that.
There was another time I cried over burnt dinner, then felt proud the day after when I made a better version of the same dish. These moments are terrifying, but they can be really empowering, too.
I wouldn't really call my living setup ideal for everyone—after all, you have to make sure that you're financially and emotionally prepared to take on the challenge—but I don't find myself regretting them as well. It taught me how to be in charge of myself, to appreciate the small and big things, and how to fearlessly go after the things I wanted with a sense of responsibility and maturity. There are still days when I find adulting too hard to handle, but I know I can take things on—either alone or with the people who are always just a call or bus drive away.
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