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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Job hunting is like dating

I’m sure someone has said that before, because it’s true. Whether you’re a fresh grad like me or looking for a new job after working in your last company for 10+ years, finding a new job is a lot like finding a new boyfriend.

I’ve been out of school since May last year, and I’ve put off my job hunt because I knew I’d be going way for my trip to Asia and I wanted to enjoy some time off before I get in the corporate world.

Luckily I got approved for repayment assistance on my student loans and I can put off paying them back for another six months… for now. I wasn’t in a hurry to leave my restaurant job anyway, so I didn’t see a problem with it. But I couldn’t do that forever (I think the NSLSC only allows you to do that a total of 4 times – essentially putting off payments for two years).

So with car payments, credit card bills, insurance, and all the rest of it, I knew I needed a full time job soon. Instead of going with a “new year, new me” mantra, I went with:

NEW YEAR, NEW JOB.

And as soon as I pulled up my resume, which I haven’t updated for a year, I felt the same anxiety I got last year when I decided I’d to try dating again. Because why not, right?

It was like that time I had Bumble, matched with a cute guy, and gathered up the courage to say something clever as an opening line. I was so stressed and embarrassed that barely a second after hitting send, I deleted the app and never reinstalled it. I don’t know if that guy responded. Hell, for all I know, it might have been a bot.

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Progress.

Last month was tough. The dark days became even darker and stronger, like waves that crashed harder as they came. It was exhausting. I felt defeated every single day. I found myself in a place I thought I would never go back to thirteen years ago, and I knew then that I had to do something. It took one crazy, spontaneous, emotionally-charged trip across town, two full days laying in bed with no desire to leave, and three major emotional breakdowns to finally get a clear mind.

I’ve since pulled myself together, but I still don’t have my shit together. I’m still in that place of uncertainty which triggers my anxiety every now and then. But now, I am slowly embracing the uncertainty because change comes with it.

Looking back on last year’s journal entries made me realize how much I have changed and accomplished since then. It doesn’t seem like much now, but last year’s me would have been happy with these little-but-significant changes that I’m learning of incorporating into my own life:

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I found Nemo!

I had a couple bad days last week. I want to blame PMS for the emotional roller coaster, but it feels like a cop out. I’m sure it played into it. I do get a little batshit crazy or insanely emotional over the couple days leading up to my period. Some months are easier than others because when I anticipate the PMS and the emotional roller coaster, I can control it.

But last week, I cried at a commercial that involved dogs and babies. I also cried so much while watching episode 8 from the new season of Westworld the week before. I mean, no spoilers, but if you know me enough, stories about (lost) love is my shit. I live for it. It was no surprise I enjoyed that episode. But I carried the emotions from watching that episode over to the new week and well… emotions and hormones plus dogs and babies?

Also some other things that I’ve kept bottled up inside resurfaced and I was overwhelmed with my own crazy thoughts. I feel lucky to have a friend who suggested going to Mount Nemo to clear my head and also do a Canadian summer activity at the same time.

After a short shift at the restaurant, I went home, slathered sunscreen on my skin, packed both of my Swell bottles, strapped on my good old Nikes and went off on a little adventure.

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Bang! Tan! Sonyeondan!

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Sometime late in October last year, a kpop group called BTS sparked my curiosity.

My four-year kpop phase ended in 2009, when members left my favourite groups because of a “scandal” or a lawsuit. Jay Park (then called Jaebeom) left 2PM. Hangeng left Super Junior. Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu left TVXQ. They were my original kpop loves, and the losses broke my heart, so I did what any other jaded person does and swore off the genre completely.

I didn’t think I’d get sucked into a fandom because I’m in my mid-twenties and I got over kpop almost a decade ago.

But here I am now, wishing I owned an ARMY bomb so I can wave it around when I go to the BTS concert in Hamilton on September. I’m not back on my old kpop phase though. I only follow Bangtan, similar to how I follow my favourite artists.

Quickly: How I feel into the rabbitARMY hole.

First, I went on YouTube and watched a couple music videos, because I heard they’re good dancers. I wanted to see if it’s true or just fans blinded by their love for their oppas. Then before their appearance on the AMAs, I wanted to know their names. Like, if I can learn each one of the 13 members of SuJu, I can learn 7, right?

Because watching groups and trying to figure out who’s who feels a lot like this:

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One hour and maybe 10 videos later, I learned their stage names, real names, and a few BTS memes. One week later, I was a closet ARMY, secretly listening to a “BTS Essentials” playlist on Apple Music during my commute to and from school. After Googling translations of the songs one day, I knew I’ll be a fan until the end. Hell, I’m stanning them harder than I did SuJu or 2PM. And eventually, I came out to my family sometime during the holidays.

To be quite honest, their music helped me a lot late last year. So on this day, their 5th anniversary as a group, I’m dedicating this post to the seven songs that got me through the last eight months…

7. Tomorrow

Continue reading “Bang! Tan! Sonyeondan!”