to the best investment that saved my sanity

Back in 2019, I picked up this console for myself as an early present. I got it in the summer, anticipating to mainly use it when the new Pokemon game comes out six months later. I barely used it until December of that year, when I actually got into Breath of the Wild.

When lockdown began three months later, this little thing became my lifeline. Both my sister and my boyfriend convinced me into getting the new Animal Crossing game, since they thought it would be up my alley – low stakes, adorable characters, and a simulation game of sorts. Sure enough, the island life agreed with me. It also allowed me to “hang out” with my sister while we were both locked down in two different cities.

It became my way of staying connected and socializing with others. I’d have some friends visit my island, or I’ll visit theirs. We’d hang out for a bit if someone’s got shooting stars. I’d shop at their tailors’ if they have something cute that day. Even if it’s only for half an hour, it was still something to take me “out” of isolation.

Fast forward to my cancer diagnosis, and my Switch has been my best friend and my lifeline.

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adulthood is a scam.

I think many of us, if not all, wanted to grow up and be adults as fast as we can. We wanted that fast-track to freedom. Being told “you’re so mature” was a huge compliment from people we considered adults.

For me, the moment my parents responded with “you can buy it with your own money” when I asked for a little treat on a random day, I realized the freedom that adults have. You mean I don’t have to ask permission to buy ice cream? I just… buy it?

But of course, being an adult is so much more than that.

I’ve gone to mention this a few times since I turned 25-ish… adulthood is a scam! The bills, the rent, the prices of kitchenware and spices and household furnishings… the price of owning a home! We can’t afford shit.

But there’s one other thing no one ever warned us about when we reach “adulthood”: our parents (and other parent-figures in our lives) get older.

It starts with you slowly realizing in your 20’s that, hey, mom and dad are just figuring life out too. There’s no guidebook or instruction manual to living life. They’ve made mistakes, and worked with what they’ve got, and that’s what you’re doing too. Wild!

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the (side) hustle

There have been a few people I’ve met who promote having a side hustle while also having a 9-5. Whether that side hustle is some MLM or a legitimate hustle where they sell something they’ve made, doesn’t make it any less of a hustle.

A real good baker I know makes beautiful sweets and cakes on the side for birthdays and weddings. She makes fancy fondant cakes for money every now and then. An old coworker has some sports fashion line going. They charge a reasonable price for their products. Those who are in “direct sales” though… well, they’re a whole other thing. Respect for the people doing the hustle, but it sucks that they prey on vulnerable people (and sometimes even desperate people who are struggling) to make profits. Whatever. MLMs, look them up. There are a list of all of them somewhere on the internet if you’re curious.

But – my question is – why supplement your income with a side hustle? Why can’t we just get paid a liveable wage. For four years, I was serving burgers and fries in the McMillions. Then I was getting paid below-minimum server wage, depending on tips that range between 0% to 25% depending on the guest. I left the food service life after getting my first office job, which I was super thankful for because it was a permanent job with employer-paid benefits and vacation. Yeah, I was able get my dental expenses covered and I was able to finally remove my problematic wisdom teeth for an affordable fee, but soon after, I realized that it still wasn’t enough to survive on.

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shame on you, smart person!

There’s been something weighing on me for the past few weeks since I spoke with an old friend. It’s something I couldn’t pinpoint right away and I didn’t even know it had a name until she said it.

Smart shaming.

It has always bugged me as a part of the culture I came from. I grew up with examples of it around me. As children, we were taught the importance of intelligence. That’s how you’ll get in the best schools. That’s how you’ll get in the best programs. That’s how you’ll get a scholarship. You’ve got to study and work hard – that’s how you’ll get ahead.

There’s a list of schools… almost like the Ivy League in the Philippines. There’s the top three or four universities, and there is a prestige if you get in.

But the moment you mention you’re a part of any of these top universities, you get some side-eye. “Galing mo naman, iskolar ng bayan.” “Ikaw na, taga-UP.” “Aba, ang talino mo naman.” These statements are literal compliments, but it is 99% always said in the same sarcastic tone I’ve heard.

We’ve been told to strive for great things, but once we hit the standard, once we “make it”, we’re shamed for getting there.

It’s not only restricted to education though. I’ve seen and heard people being mocked for beautiful artwork. “Naks, ikaw na ang painter!” In speaking a foreign language. “Nosebleed ka naman, pa-English-English ka pa.” Hell, even being mocked for their looks. “Siya na ang maganda!”

So we put our heads down. So we don’t tell anyone unless asked, and if we are, we say it in the softest voice possible so that no one thinks we’re bragging. Why isn’t it normal to celebrate our wins without someone else feeling offended?

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Keeping track with bullets

Toward my last year of uni, I kept track of all my work with a proper planner. For some reason, it was better to have it written down than just in my phone’s calendar. Even if it was essentially the same thing, something about actually writing it down and being able to open up to a page and see everything that needed to be done was easier.

It also made me feel a lot more productive. When I had to write daily goals that helped me build 8-, 10- or 12-page essays, it kept my procrastination to a minimum. It also allowed some room for slacking. I didn’t feel guilty about watching a couple episodes of Jane the Virgin since I finished a 7-page draft

I don’t have any big deadlines anymore, but I still wanted to have a planner in my life. But what should I even keep track of?

Then I saw someone’s story with the caption: “bullet journals are life”. So I asked Google what in the world is a bullet journal, and I sat here mildly dumbfounded that I didn’t know about this before. This could have been more useful in my last semester instead of the multiple mini-weekly planners I had that was a mess.

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Having to and getting to

Some days, it feels like I’m moving forward. Most days, it is actually just me running in place, or driving around in circles. Then there are those days where I’ve gone zero-to-eighty, but I was going in the wrong direction. More often than not, I realize I’m stuck. I look around and see all the forks on the road, and I am overwhelmed by all the choices that I just want to head back.

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But heading back is not always an option, so I stay still, looking ahead into the unknown while my ever-so-familiar past tries to lure me back into its comfortable arms.

On days I feel good about myself, I feel like I am walking with a spring in my step. But I bet I look more like a penguin waddling in the ice, taking the smallest of strides and hoping I don’t slip.

I have to do this. I have to do that. I have to get up. I have to go to work. I have to eat healthy. I have to work out. I have to pay my bills. So many things I have to do that I just feel like I’m doing it all mindlessly and without a purpose. I feel stuck.

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Simulating relationships

A few months ago, I watched The Matrix for the first time as an adult. I knew about the films growing up, but I just didn’t think it would be interesting. But when Neo pulled out a Jean Baudrillard book from his bookshelf, the nerd in me jumped out. I had to explain its significance to my boyfriend at the time. I just had to.

But when I got to explaining the four stages of simulacra and simulation, I couldn’t give a proper example past the third stage. Since we were watching the movie, I was trying to take examples from the film itself, but as far as I could tell, the simulation of reality that the robots create are still Stage 3 (Stage 2 for the ones who take the blue pill, 3 for the ones who want to stay in the dream).

So for weeks it bothered me that I couldn’t think of a proper Stage 4 example. Until I overheard this girl on the train talk about how she got catfished over the weekend. It was as if a string of Christmas lights lit up in my dark, tired noggin, illuminating the path that I’ve gone through so many times over.

1 The first stage is the faithful image or copy of a true reality.

This is when a thing is what it says it’s supposed to be. The dress you ordered from Rosegal is an exact copy of the one you saw on the site. And now you can wear it on your date with the guy you’ve been talking to on Tinder, who is actually the same guy in the photos. No scams, no false advertising. Very simple. Everyone is happy.

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