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My friend, A, spent over two hours looking for the perfect refrigerator. He’s moving out for the first time in his life and wants things to be as close as they can to impeccable. It took him a while to find a good enough condo to rent but a month ago he finally put down a deposit for a one-bedroom that’s just a stone’s throw away from an upscale mall in BGC.

He and I have known each other for a long time—a little over a decade by my last count. We met in high school then weaved in and out of each other’s lives, doing that intermittent friendship dance up until our mid 20s when we reconnected in a coffee shop in the south. We’ve remained close ever since. The vast history of our friendship is the very reason why arriving here—at this point where we’ve both moved out and are flailing through adulthood—still feels a little strange. On some days he’s still that timid teenage church boy to me.

I visited his place a few days ago and there are still a bunch of things to check off the list. It’s shaping up though, transforming quite visibly into a place you’d want to come home to. A’s got a nice wooden table, fancy cutlery, and a fully stocked ref. He groans anyway, lamenting the quick pileup of bills. I look at him sympathetically. I get it—moving out is stressful and can easily be a financial suckhole.

Last night we had dinner and he walked into the room with an annoyed look on his face. He had spilled milk on his computer and now the screen was a little messed up—not totally destroyed but defaced enough to bug the hell out of him. It wasn’t the damage that was particularly upsetting but the timing; that it had to happen on the same month that he had accrued the most expenses felt a little bit like a cosmic joke.

***

B is lying on a sofa as I type this watching Breaking Bad. She’s on leave from work for the next few days because of a dental surgery that excavated an impacted tooth—the asshole tooth, in her words—from her mouth. We’ve handed her ice packs and yogurt, whatever we can to make her feel better, including the thing she needs the most right now: quiet.

B is one of my first friends to have moved out though she has a very unconventional family setup. Her parents are both abroad and most of her relatives are in Davao. She remains here in Manila, the epitome of an independent woman. A month before I moved out two years ago, B was the one I called. I remember talking to her on the wraparound deck of my parents’ house, asking her what to expect. She talked about the tough times, the ones when hunger was not an option but a consequence, the days when fast food would become one’s salvation. She said that it was hard yet fulfilling, carrying the full burden of your life on your own shoulders. She’s asleep on the couch now, weary from an operation that cost more than our rent.

Five years into a life of independence and I think she’s realizing that the journey is not just one thing. It is both: heavy and light.

***

This is not about moving out. Not really. This is about last week, when my friends piled into a car and went to La Union on a weekday, just because they could. This is about the freedom that comes with a life where you’re tied down to less responsibilities, when you don’t have to worry too much about getting by. This was my life before I moved out and before my promotion. But now I am being tethered to a stricter reality and sometimes the cost is a week at the beach.

It sounds like I’m complaining and I suppose a baby boomer might read that last paragraph and conclude that I am acting entitled. And you know what? Maybe they’re right. But the beach is a metaphor for a life unencumbered by the nuisance of all my collective worries—my rent, my job, my groceries, my bills, everything that needs fixing or changing or discarding. And if I have to be honest, though I’d like to think I’ve built a life I don’t intend to run away from, some days beg for a quick escape.

I want you to know that A,B, and I know we are privileged. We are educated and have stable jobs. We make decent money. We drive cars, we travel sometimes, we each have a place to come home to, and above all, we have each other to fall back on when the going gets tough. It really isn’t a bad life.

But along the way, in the growing up, what separates the child from the adult are the decisions we make. And to be an adult, I am learning, is to accept that there are tradeoffs. Some of them are so hard to swallow.

But some, like when I’m lying in bed alone, just a little bit closer to God, deeply grateful to have made it, feel just as good as ocean, sand, and sun.

 

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