Adulting is hard
EXISTENTIAL BLABBER - Kara Ortiga (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2018 - 12:00am

I’ve come to learn that adulting doesn’t mean choosing Netflix over drinks on a Friday night — but acknowledging that we live in an environment that can be quite unkind, and learning how to accept and maneuver your way through it.

Last Monday, at around 10 in the morning, I thought that my little home, where I have lived independently for about two years, was going to burn down. I was alarmed by the sound of my doorbell going off incessantly, only to peep out my window and find my neighbor standing outside.

I wondered if something had happened to my car — maybe a tree branch had fallen on it after the storm, or maybe a cat had rummaged through my trash and left some kind of crime scene? Maybe a collection of rat heads?

I ambled outside slowly, and my neighbor was frantically pointing to the townhouse beside mine, whose electric box was engulfed in smoke. There were sparks. And for a brief moment, a small fire.

In a panic (and perhaps, I don’t know, the little common sense left in me), I ran inside to my electric circuit breaker to switch it off. Thankfully — and perhaps quite fatefully — the circuit breaker is one of the first things my dad taught me about when we visited the empty house. He taught me how to turn it off, and how to turn it on. In case of emergencies, he had said two years ago… like maybe a fire. My life had kind of come full circle.

Panic filled me — panic like I had never felt before. I darted around the house as neighbors shrieked outside, huddled around the smoke, waiting for their homeowners to return. Should I lend them my water hose?, I wondered, not aware that you don’t water an electrical problem. (Why didn’t they teach me this at school?) What do I do, what I do, what do I do?, I thought, only to end up calling my family in tears, fearing that the only thing left to do was perhaps watch the home burst into flames… and I didn’t want to do that alone.

“Please come here, now,” I pled to everyone. They responded with calm, logical questions. But there was no more time for calm when my own electric box had started to smoke up, too. I live in a row of eight townhouses built side-by-side during the ‘80s — so all of our electrical lines are connected, and they are also quite outdated.

In those moments, I felt it all sink in. Do you know that question people ask in slum books, “What are the things that you will pack first when your house is on fire?” I always said, “I have no idea.” But when you’re smack in the middle of that very scenario, those were the things going through my head. What do I pack?

Unfortunately, I had… not much. My wallet. My laptop. My passport. Some jewelry. To be honest, it was also a brief realization that I didn’t have many valuables. I just wanted my home to not combust. Would that be acceptable as a slum book answer? You never know what you’ve got going for you until the moment you realize that in a few minutes you are possibly going to lose it all.

I ran to the car with all my belongings stuffed haphazardly inside a tote bag, to which a neighbor had quite comically commented, “Saan ka pupunta?”

When the electrical problem finally tripped the main transformer of Meralco, it killed the burning — and it also killed the electricity around the block. The chaos ended. I had to call my family back to tell them that the crisis was over. “What do you mean, it’s over?” they asked, just four minutes after I had called S.O.S. “It’s done,” I just said. 

And what pursued me for the rest of the week was something I wasn’t prepared for. If I wasn’t primed for the catastrophe, I was more unprepared for the aftermath. To repair an electrical problem that involved eight households required so much negotiation, understanding, and debate. The process to get sh*t done just to repair an electrical problem is not easy here. We had no electricity for five days. Four different teams sent by Meralco could offer no help but to tell us to fix the problem (it was out of their jurisdiction, they said). The electrician we initially hired, offered by the barangay, had backed out on Day 3. I felt myself quite deserted by the authorities I regularly pay to keep things in order. And I learned that if you don’t do stuff yourself — at least in this society — or if you don’t have a lot of money, things are going to be really, really hard for you.

The term “adulting” — so endearingly used by millennials like myself — is thrown around by mid-20 somethings about how much they’ve outgrown the days of their binge-drinking and replaced it instead with a heavy dose of binge-watching Netflix. I’ve always thought “adulting” meant splurging on three kinds of essential oils, paying your bills on time, or getting excited about a pair of slippers with microfiber threads on its soles (hey, you can sweep the floor as you walk!).

But I have learned that adulting is not so much a surrendering of youth; it’s facing the cold, harsh realities of the real world: acknowledging that the environment we live in is filled with corruption, philandering and self-interest, and accepting all this and maneuvering your way through nonetheless. It’s coming to realize that the world is not always nice. That it’s not always fair. That people are driven mostly by what will benefit themselves. That humanity can be, quite surprisingly, malicious.

And also that if you are able to just accept the clusterf*ck that is humanity, if you are able to be smart about your strategy, all while maintaining a sense of sanity… now, that’s adulting. And it’s hard.

ADULTING IS HARD
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