The Postscript (a year later)
I reposted an article I had written a year ago, and although I still agree with its thesis, I also realize that my views have widened since. It was an article on things I learned only after leaving the city for good; most of you already know how to pick up the story from here. As I re-read the life lessons I had stated then, I realized that I had missed certain important connections that leave my statements lacking a subtle but perceivable depth.
I owe it to myself to go deeper than the romanticized notion of simple living that I had unwittingly painted in my old article. Here is a postscript to that article; a brief outline of what I hope is wisdom gleaned from another year:
1) I Was Able To Move Out Of Manila Because I Had Various Online Jobs
I had quit a teaching job not only because the Manila life was taking its toll on me; I quit because I had writing and editing jobs to fall back on. I didn't make the move empty-handed. On top of that, I already secured a job in La Union prior to packing my things. The move wasn't an act of whim. It took guts but it also took massive planning.
Not everyone can afford to drop their jobs to pursue a life elsewhere. The act of simplifying one's life can indeed achieve the opposite. But I persevered to simplify my choices. I lowered my expectations and sought what was sustainable. And from there, I kept working.
I was on the constant lookout for a side hustle. I wrote more than I had ever written in my life. The web content jobs helped pay the bills (the bills don't go away), but the real payoff was practicing a writing routine and gaining the confidence to keep writing.
2) I Was Able To Move Out Of Manila Because I Knew How To Write, And I Enjoyed It
I was never one for labels. I ascribed the word "writer" to everyone who wrote better than I did, hence, never giving myself the chance to claim the title for myself. But this was a belief sustained by academic aspirations and overthinking. I had a hazy notion of what "to write for a living" meant. I had confused it with writing for leisure and writing for literary acclaim. As I took on writing jobs for random products and services, I realized that what I was doing was writing for a living.
What I had wasn't just a hobby; it was a skill. When you learn what it is that you can do, and do reasonably well, follow it everywhere. It will open doors for you no matter where you find yourself. There is space for your skills somewhere, and more importantly, somewhere else.
3) I Was Able To Move Out Of Manila Because My Hands Were Free
I had always thought that I was able to make the move out of the city because I was independent. I was providing for myself and only myself; I didn't need my family's help. Then it occurred to me that I had the liberty to make my own choices because my family didn't need my help. They even lived in another country, which numbed me to the distance. It didn't matter whether I lived in Manila or La Union because my home was always elsewhere, anyway.
I would get sad about being so far away from my family (I still do) but I remember that it's one of the conditions that helped me get here. It's a unique privilege. I am both sad and happy because of it.
4) I Was Able To Move Out Of Manila Because I Wasn't Alone
Would I have moved out if I didn't have a partner who wanted the same thing? Yes. Would I have kept delaying the move? Definitely.
My heart had always been set on provincial living but my mind had a tendency to worry itself to paralysis and my body was just too weak (also, lazy) to do it all alone. How would I ever get all of my books out of the door? How do I transfer my life when I couldn't even drive? How do I not get hurt in the process?
Harold was the voice that ended all doubt. When we talked about our plans, everything seemed doable. We gave ourselves roles, and the roles were fluid; we figured out how to be like bamboo. The goal wasn't to be unfettered by problems; instead, it was being adaptable so you can never break.
5) I Was Able To Move Out Of Manila Because I Was OK With Failing
Despite all the planning, the professional status, the privilege, and the proclamations of teamwork, there was still a probability that things would fall apart. Tragically. Laughably. Irreversibly. But the biggest 2-word question in life isn't "What if?," but "So what?"
It would only mean that there was still work to be done, things to be packed again, and a wide, open road ahead that shines with promise despite its hazards.
As long as your conscience is clean, you'll make it far. Farther than La Union even.