I’ve forgotten that I can be independent

I don’t have complaints living with my boyfriend 24/7 since this pandemic began. I think what’s made our relationship last is patience. We rarely argue. We’re comfortable. We enjoy each other’s company.

When I was in Hanoi last month, I thought I’d forgotten how it was like to venture off to a new city and explore it on my own. I don’t need companions (though I did meet up with a friend in Hanoi, I’m confident I would’ve been able to do that same trip by myself). I just need a few things to be excited about and a safe place to stay… and I’m good. It’s probably more of an adjustment phase. Like what’s happening with me right now here in La Union.

When I got here on Sunday I felt the quiet shock of coming from city life… to suddenly quaint surf town. I wasn’t ready for the Airbnb. I probably romanticised it and thought of my travels to other Southeast Asian cities. But this Airbnb at Urbiztondo, though quiet and beautiful on a hill overlooking the beach community… it’s lacking something. Maybe the warmth of the actual owners instead of the caretakers. Maybe because of the pandemic, there’s no “pandesal and simple breakfast” to be had at the common area. That would normally entail some type of ritual of running into other backpackers, travellers, surfers even… that’s gone. And, lastly, it’s wet. The monsoon season and a low pressure area greeting me when I got here. I’m feeling an extra layer of solitude. I anticipated it but it hit hard today.

But in these moments I’m learning to take a step back and look at myself in the tiny bathroom mirror. Hey, George. You’re here by yourself. And you’re not scared. You’ve planned this trip for months. You know what you’re doing. You’ll be fine. Stop worrying. This is a rare time for you to have to yourself – because in Singapore, you’re physically committed to showing up to your partner, to your workplace, to your housemates, to society… but here, it’s just you and the beach, babe.

***

Flashback

It was in 2000. I was a high school student and I remember I couldn’t go home after school because I was afraid to ride public jeeps and buses. I ended up waiting for my classmates to wrap up their Tamiya cars, Pokemon cards… whatever after school hobby… so I could commute with someone by my side. I wasn’t conditioned at the time to be independent. I was pampered, yes. But imagine that! What a waste of time to have to sit there through Pokemon cards and teenage obsession with toy racing cars… when I could’ve taken the jeep or baby bus home… or to a mall, or I don’t know… SOMEWHERE… anywhere, which I can utilise for myself.

If I could change something about myself 22 years ago, it would be to encourage myself to become independent at the earliest possible instance. The other thing to change would be to “stop worrying about what others think of you” and to really just carve your own path. Be different! It’s okay. Really, it’s okay.

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