In December 2015, just a few days before Christmas, I packed my bags and set out to what could possibly be my most life-changing adventure. I was 19 at the time, supposedly halfway through my first college degree, working several side hustles to pay the bills with zero savings. As crazy as it sounds, I moved out and made the decision to live independently.
For a lot of us, the idea of starting a life of your own even before you graduate or have a stable job is almost taboo—especially when factors like culture and practicality come into play. Somehow, there’s an unspoken rule that your life has to follow a very specific order: go to school, graduate, get a job, and if you’re more traditional, get married and have kids. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with living your life that way. But hear me out when I say that there’s nothing wrong with living life on your own terms, too.
"I was often so scared about what the future would be like or if there’s a future for me at all."
It wasn’t easy building my life from scratch. I remember raising a lot of eyebrows for my decisions. At first, I got a bed in a shared-living facility. I could still remember sending out at least 20 to 50 applications to random companies every single day while working on several side jobs to keep my bills paid. Sometimes, when the funds were running too low, I would just walk from work all the way to where I lived, usually from Makati to Mandaluyong or from wherever I got assigned.
In moments where my standing by my decisions got a little too tough, I would question my capabilities. I was often so scared about what the future would be like or if there’s a future for me at all. After a while, I found my place in the world of freelancing as a writer. Some way, somehow, I also found my way into the digital industry where I also landed a few gigs as a body positivity influencer. Things got better and I decided to go back to school and really commit to pursuing my degree in International Relations.
Moving out early, even before I was fully prepared, so to speak, has shaped me into a person I never thought I would become. It has taught me both mundane and profound things. I learned that it’s really not a good idea to keep sleeping at 3 in the morning when you know you have to be awake by around 7 or 8. I learned that shopping is fun until you realize you’ve gone way beyond your budget and I probably didn’t need five pairs of shoes in one go to begin with. I learned that being surrounded with good people helps you keep your values intact and stay grounded. And so, choose your friends wisely.
"While I take pride and joy in being self-made, perhaps, the most important thing I learned in my adulting journey was a better understanding of the concept of independence."
I learned that I shouldn’t be afraid to take my time when I have to, because there’s really no such thing as too late. Moving out at 19 made me appreciate the small things, especially the privileges that not a lot of people get to have. It made me put more value on my education and to make the most out of my prolonged stay in college. It gave me the courage to join the first ever plus-size pageant in our school where I won and became the first ever Ms. LPU+.
Eventually, I was given the chance to run for the student council and it gave me the opportunity to serve my fellow students.
While I take pride and joy in being self-made, perhaps, the most important thing I learned in my adulting journey was a better understanding of the concept of independence. I used to think that independence meant isolation and just doing things by yourself—away from your family. Now that I’m 23, I realized that independence is all about being able to take care of yourself so that when other people need your help, you’re at full capacity to help them, too. I’m not really the cheesy type, but being away from my family made me realize how important they are, especially my parents. My main source of motivation used to be proving the world what I was capable of as an individual. Now, it has changed completely for me because one of the reasons I want to be successful in all that I do is so that I can give my family a better life when the time comes.
Finishing school, working two jobs, serving in the student council, and facing the day-to-day challenges of adulting isn’t easy. But at the end of the day, there’s really no other way I’d have it.