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The cost of independence

"So you live alone? You travel alone?" asked my Japanese friend when I met him in Tokyo. "Yes, I do," I said. "That's not common for Filipinos," he commented. He's correct. Independence from one's family's house and finances isn't really the norm here. So many young people still live with their parents after graduation, and many opt to continue living with their parents even after they've married and had kids.

But that's not what I had in mind by myself. I moved out two weeks after I graduated and stopped asking for allowance as soon as I got my first pay check. My parents have done so much for me already that I couldn't imagine asking for any more once I can support myself. I also wanted to be able to make my own decisions about my life. Oh, I tell you, I've made a few big and painful mistakes, but those are worthy lessons I will never forget. Some things your parents can't teach you. Some things you have to learn by yourself.

I love living alone because I have total freedom when it comes to my schedule, expenses, and space. I can eat junk food for breakfast if I want to - and I do sometimes, all the while hearing my mom admonish me in my head about junk food causing a hole in my stomach. "Ma, I really doubt that," I would argue with her in my head. She would give me a disapproving look and I'd happily go back to my junk food. 

Independence, however, is not cheap. Once you start paying for everything, you become conscious of how much everything costs. When my income was still low I would always worry about the price tag; there's no room for extras. I would clutch at every peso in my savings account. I like telling this story, with embarrassment: I cried the first time I did groceries by myself. I had just gotten my first salary then, but about 20% of it was demolished upon buying one week's worth of groceries. I mean, crap. Who knew groceries cost so much?

I'm earning considerably better now though and I can afford to be chill about costs. Still, my living expenses take up 30-40% of my income - a sizeable chunk, since I live in a not-so-cheap city like The Fort. I also love to travel and that eats up money, of course. There's also a lot of loneliness, lethargy, and ennui involved with living alone. It can break people who do not have the mental and emotional strength to eat instant noodles by the sink.

Is it all worth it? I ask myself this every now and then. Is the cost of my independence worth it? It was difficult when I started out, but I would have been a different person if I hadn't made the decision to be independent. I think of dependence as a silent killer; there is always a compromise, and it will never be on your terms. The person you are depending on always exacts an equal or more payment. Everything is conditional. I can't accept that for myself, so here I am. 

I also matured more quickly because I lived alone. Now I know that if you don't wash the dishes or sweep the floor, no one else would. Seriously. If your mom or yaya does the housework for you you should be appropriately grateful! I also now know how to budget and most importantly, how to hustle. No one ain't giving me any cash, which means that I have to work for it...or else. I can't afford to be lazy.

Independence isn't for everyone though. Sometimes it just makes more sense to live with your parents if you can. Maybe you're simply not earning enough to afford your own place. Maybe you're not emotionally and mentally ready for days when you don't have to wear pants but you want to. These are things you have to consider before taking the plunge!

My advice is, if you can, move out. I promise it won't be easy, but you'll be a better person for it.

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