Yesterday we had a mini crisis at home. The refrigerator started leaking and left a small puddle in the kitchen. My housemates and I exchanged a number of back-and-forth messages on Facebook, trying to come up with the best solution to fix the problem. While juggling this and a number of other responsibilities at the same time, I took a moment to step back and breathe. This is not how I thought my life would turn out.
If you told my 19-year-old self that at 29, I’d be unmarried, childless, and living in a house with two other girls, I think she’d be disappointed. Like many other millennials, I was a victim of The Narrative — that linear blueprint passed on to me by adults that charted out the trappings of the “Ideal Life.” Apparently, the Ideal Life should have a money-making degree from a reputable school, a lucrative career, a spouse, children, and a nice house in a gated community. In it was a girl who had it all.
That sounds like a fantastic fairy tale — kudos to those who live it out — but as fate would have it that just isn’t my story.
What I got was a nice school and a degree in Creative Writing. A relative once asked me where my course would get me and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. The truth is, you can’t answer until you know until you find out for yourself. It has been eight years since I graduated from college, which means I’ve lived enough to get back to him. My degree got me great mentors and enough validation to keep going. It got me writing gigs and, eventually, teaching gigs. It got me workshops and classes, both here and abroad. It got me the books that I wrote and the books that I will write. It got me somewhere unexpected and in all honesty, much farther than I would have guessed.
What I got was singlehood, which forced me to confront a life on my own. I realize now that I was terrified of this only because I was taught to be. I thought it would be a sea of perpetual loneliness and I suppose it is for some. But for me, it has been a steady stream of good company. The illusion used to be a cat lady defined by pining. The reality is laughter around a warmly lit table at 11 in the evening, impromptu game nights, and food delivered to me on the days I feel sick. Loneliness visits but not often enough for me to be afraid.
What I got are housemates. I was supposed to write that I never imagined living with friends to be a part of my future but I realize that that is untrue. I think I dreamed it at some point — I just never actually believed it would happen.
When Maggie and I got an apartment together a year and a half ago we thought of it as an experiment. It could be terrible — two friends who end up despising each — or it could actually turn out to be some kind of wonderful. Our first home was a two-bedroom unit somewhere along Lawton Avenue in Taguig. The bathroom mirror had permanent stains, the kitchen blinds were broken, and on our first night there we were assaulted by an army of flying cockroaches. (It remains to be one of our most unforgettable moments yet.) Despite that, we settled in pretty quickly.
When Bea eventually decided to live with us as well, we were fortunate enough to end up in a three-bedroom townhouse relatively close to our workplaces. This place has a trellis filled with vines, a small backyard, and a beautiful dog that lived right across us. Moving in was a whirlwind event full of trucks, furniture, and bad tempers but in our eight months of living together, we’ve managed to build a home. On lazy Saturday mornings, we cook breakfast (pancakes and eggs!) together or sit in the living room and spot rare birds with majestically long tails. We’ve also found ourselves groaning lately at the sound of the neighbor’s terrible karaoke choices. I feel grateful that home is really not a place but a feeling. It’s belonging, acceptance, and a hundred other golden things that I can’t properly explain. But what I’m certain about is that you’ll know it when you find it.
I’m sure I’ve found it.
My life now is a deviation from The Narrative. It’s not a husband or children but rather a house with great women. On some days we do feel like each other’s wives and mothers and I know that I’m a better person because of it. If I do get married I’ll be sure to credit them for everything I learned about co-existence. If I do get married I’ll always be glad that this life with them now is the stopover I made before getting there. If I do get married I’ll tell my husband that all the best things I know about romance didn’t come from books but from really good friendship.
I went downstairs last night and saw Maggie mopping the floor and cleaning the ref out like a pro. Bea came home with some freshly baked bread, which she gladly shared with both of us. This is not how I thought my life would turn out. I didn’t live according to The Narrative but I look at the things that I got in the end and I think, in all humility, that I might actually still be the girl who has it all.