When you’re 21 and a minimum wage earner

There’s a place in the world where being 21 and being ass broke is cool. And it’s not Manila. Here it’s just lame, and pitiable.

There is nothing cool about opting out of Saturday night outs because you’re broke, and observing Earth Hour not because you’re environment friendly but because you have 2 months worth of Meralco bills sitting on your table threatening to plunge you to the dark ages.

 

It’s also the thing about being 21 and earning minimum wage. You have to pick priorities: when the bills come pouring in, you have to ask yourself: what can you not have? So you pay the internet bill because your job (or life) sometimes depends on it. You pay the water bill because how else are you going to take a bath? You pay the building monthly dues because you cannot be homeless. And you’re left with electricity – you figure you’re just at your place to sleep, you don’t need light when you sleep and you can charge your gadgets in the office.

A little extreme thinking but if there’s any notices of disconnection I would rather see in the mail, it’s electricity.

But that’s not to say you can’t have fun. Of course you can, but only twice a month. And that only lasts a few days. This month, mine lasted just one.

I had to have a root canal last week and the choice was either to be be poor or to die. I chose to be poor. I visited the dentist on payday so after I had it done, I went to a restaurant and ate my self to death. I figured, I should be able to eat everything I want on that day because God knows when I’ll be able to eat again.

Another thing about being 21 and being a minimum wage earner is that, there’s never enough money to spend on health and well-being. Visit the doctor? Nah, just take paracetamol. Buy paracetamol? Nah, just drink water.

And of course you cannot ask your parents for dole outs unless it was a matter of life and death. You’re 21. That age just screams pressure. Prove yourself. Be responsible. Live alone. Be independent. You cannot just call your mom and say, “Hi Mom, you were right, I can’t do this.” Of course you can’t! You tell them you can and you don’t need their money……….anymore.

And that’s one of the perils of being 21 in Manila. You lived in a country where parents are expected to fund you for as long as forever. The system doesn’t allow for student loans and housing plans. The society surely doesn’t allow for waiting tables, mowing lawns or doing paper rounds to sustain you.

We have no choice but to live and loot off our parents. That’s why when you’re finally done with school, it’s just too embarassing to continue being their responsibility.

And for that, you accept that you’re never going to be able to buy a house or a car in the next 10 years. There’s just no way to. So you start lowering your standards. Maybe a phone, a TV, a laptop. In my case, my phone, my TV, my laptop were all courtesy of my mom. Allow me to feel pathetic.

But there are still things you can pay for yourself. Like Holidays. Because if you don’t travel, and get days off from your job and have that moment of total disconnection, you’re gonna lose your mind.

It’s cheaper to travel than pay for a shrink.

The saddest thing about being 21 and earning minimum? You are kind of stripped of the right to be outrageous, be irresponsible and take risks. You literally cannot afford to.

“Times are hard for the dreamers,” I read somewhere.

It is. It’s hard. Not knowing when you’re gonna be able to finally pay that electricity bill, or if you’re ever gonna have enough to replace a shitty phone. Or if you’ll ever reach the period of not living from paycheck to paycheck.

But being 21 and earning minimum and sticking with it? When you can fly to the UK and earn crazy there or sell your soul to corporate robots and get paid shitload, is maybe another way of being outrageous and being irresponsible.

I know for sure it’s taking a risk. Wondering, hoping and waiting for that risk to pay off – that’s where the fun comes in.

It’s just a scary, unstable kind of fun and you would have to have a dark sense of humor to find it funny. Thankfully, I’m a little twisted, because being 21 and earning minimum wage and being broke is kind of my thing right now. And I’ve never felt more alive.

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