Here at Preen, we’re fully aware that adult life doesn’t always go as smoothly (and look as beautiful) as curated Instagram feeds. We all face challenges amidst all the good things. Meet Mikka Wee, a former food editor-turned-working gal in Singapore, who’s about to share all the ups and downs that come with adulting. Welcome to Bless This Mess!
There comes a point in everyone’s life when they’re forced to grow up. My time came 575 days ago when I packed my bags and headed to the airport with a one-way ticket to Singapore.
It’s important that we paint a real picture of what this thing called “adulting” looks like, and no, it’s not made of millennial pink photos, nor is it a product of several VSCO and Instagram filters.
Whenever I scroll through my Instagram feed, I see images and stories of other women my age who seem to breeze through adulthood as if they were born ready for it. Of course, I can’t help but feel a bit insecure, yet I indulge myself a little more. In fact, aren’t we all a little guilty of painting that almost-perfect life on our personal social media accounts? I know I am. We’ve somehow self-learned the art of filtering our lives, highlighting the good parts and dusting the not-so-good parts under the rug.
So, here’s some tough love. Adulting comes with its set of challenges—the struggle is really real. Sure, “it’s all about perspective,” but sometimes, you just have to break. (And that’s completely alright!) There are a lot of things I wish I learned during my early 20s, and there are so many days that I wish I could go back, live with my parents again, and not worry about rent and utility bills. But some of the best things about being forced out of your comfort zone are learning the lessons, possibly living the questions, and, I guess, becoming a better person in the process. Here are some lessons I’ve gathered so far:
When I ended a long-term relationship at 2014, I went through a phase that I’d like to call “Travel Therapy.” Sounds enticing, right? It might be something that would even make the headline of a Thought Catalog article.
I took advantage of my flexible food editor job, booked tickets, and lined up my trips like a row of dominos. The crash came when the cash damage was done. Sure, I travelled and my heart was bursting with joy, but it bruised my bank account so bad as a result. I’m sure you’ve seen that quote going around now that says, “Invest in experiences and not things.” Well, despite this heeded millennial adage, I still paid for experiences like I would have with stuff.
It’s easy to get so drawn to the escapist proverbs of our generation, but I’ve learned to think them through before taking action. I now know that it pays to listen to our folks and spend within our means because carelessness can sometimes come with a pretty hefty price tag.
It’s easy to mistake self-care as selfishness when in fact, it is the exact opposite. We have always been taught to put others first, which is all and fine, but I hope you don’t feel guilty if you skip a last-minute family gathering to go on a well-deserved retreat.
The work environment these days can be quite unforgiving, which is why we all need to catch our breath at some point, gather ourselves together again, reset, and reconfigure—even if this means taking a sabbatical or quitting your job to get yourself back on track. Create boundaries and stick to them. Know what your breaking point is and what values you will never compromise.
This is one of my favorite quotes by Pico Iyer. I cannot stress enough how important it is to find time for yourself and for the people you love. Especially now that I live far from my family, the time I spend with them has become some of my most cherished moments. Time is something you can never, ever take back. Once a second passes, it never returns. A lot of people work hard to the point that their health suffers, and this sadly becomes a badge of honor for them. Make time to sharpen the saw and make room for the people and things that matter.
Let’s talk about a hard topic—money matters. I’m no financial expert, but I’ve been learning about how important financial freedom is at a young age. To harp on my first point, reckless spending adds up to debt, and debt is a wall that hinders you from your independence. A friend of mine said something about how a lot of middle-class kids in Manila are living a “fake freedom,” knowing well that they will always have a “safety net.”
But being able to stand strong despite being thrown into a world devoid of a safety net is what defines independence for me. Right now, financial independence is one of my top goals before I turn 30. If you’re in some financial kerfuffle right now, work towards paying that debt off. It may entail some sacrifice and hard work, but the sooner you do it, the better.
Life can be ironically sweet and tough at the same time, and what I have known to be true is that there will always be lessons to be learned in any situation life throws us in. There will be a lot of sucky days, and on those days, you are more than welcome to cry your eyeballs out, scream as loud as you want, and bang the walls with your fists as hard as you can. For others, it’s a day at the spa. For me, it’s writing (and a lot of crying sometimes). And during these moments, there may not seem to be any lessons to be learned, but at least you know that sometimes, crying feels good, or screaming helps release the stress. Give yourself permission to feel these things because that’s what makes us human. Carve out time to do some reflection and introspection every once in a while to get a sense-check of where you are and what you feel life is teaching you in a certain season.
There is no life hack that can solve all the unpleasant things we need to deal as we get our first bittersweet taste of adulthood; no hard and fast rule that can fast forward time to when we’ve already made our millions. So just embrace it. Take in the blows, the blessings, and be grateful for the growth. After all, life, in essence, is made up of moments; how we spend our time is what we make out of our lives.
In the sea of quotes flooding my feed, one that I hold close to me is a straightforward one from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: “Live Deliberately,” he says. And don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it. Enjoy the jungle!
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Lara Intong
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