I’m grateful to New York for a lot of things, but mostly for the gift of independence it has given me. I may have attempted to gain independence in my young adult life in Manila, but having a swarm of supportive relatives and meddling neighbors foiled my noble intentions of making it on my own — being truly, fully independent in the most real sense of the word.
Now I can pretty much do everything I want. I can run naked in my apartment and no one would ever know. I can put my speakers on full blast and play the same song over and over again. I can stash my fridge with nothing but my favorite ice cream flavor and fill my cupboards with all the comfort food I love to munch. I can eat my favorite mung bean soup all day, all week and the whole month. I can have weird combinations of ingredients in my food experiments. I can leave the house and arrive anytime I want. No one will check. No nosy neighbors. No watchful family members. No critical friends. No one will complain. I can sleep, wake-up, clean the house, wash clothes, eat meals, and potentially do all the verbs in the English dictionary my own way, in my own terms. With it, I feel so powerful. It fuels my creativity and curiosity. Independence gave me a way to re-align my life, values then handed me a mirror to see myself in a different light.
But it’s not all roses. I quickly learned having this much freedom comes with tremendous responsibilities. It’s cliched wisdom yet its different when you are actually living it to the core.
I know I can hold parties and invite friends to my house , but I don’t. I made my home a sanctuary of rest and solitary recreation that I badly need in this city of fast paced transactions and stressful demands. I can leave my dirty dishes in the sink like what I would have done when I was younger, but I don’t. I know no one will do it for me anyway and that it would be very expensive to hire the services of a pest control agency later if I start breeding roaches and rats with my laziness. I can bust my budget on a great pair of shoes I wanted for so long or some expensive must-have gadget, but I don’t. I know better to keep some savings for the rainy days. I can stay late every night and spend countless hours idling with friends somewhere but I don’t. After all I know that when I get sick from staying up late and if I abuse my health with bad food choices and alcohol, there will be no one to take care of myself but me. No one will serve me chicken soup if I end up sick. No one will pay my bills if I miss my due dates. Here, I don’t have anyone to bail me out if I do bad. My closest relative who would do that is in California, which means I’m 6-hour flight away from redemption.
The best lesson of independence is an eye-opening irony: the more freedom one enjoys, the more responsible a person would grow.