This is just a snippet of a very striking comic I came across today from The Woke Salaryman titled Moving out in my 20s was expensive AF but I regret nothing. I highly recommend reading it.
Disclaimer: My parents are not the traditional sort who would demand money from me for “purely symbolic” reasons of “filial piety”. In fact, they’re pretty darn liberal – the apartment I am currently living in is owned by my mum and the rent that I pay her is, as she insists, purely a token sum of principle in that I need to know that life does not come easy (anyone who knows my mum will know that it is her life’s mission to make sure I am not a spoilt brat). My parents are also not the traditional sort who want me to have an expensive wedding, get a new family car or have children ASAP. I also didn’t have to cycle myself and my belongings to my new place, nor do I live in a small rental common room with no ensuite toilet. In short, the circumstances of my moving out was nothing at all like the comic, but there are several points it highlights that I thought were worth mentioning.
Some context – I had lived with friends for 4 years in the UK where I did my uni and it did dawn upon me that moving back into my family home upon returning to Singapore would be sort of a step backwards in terms of growing up and being independent etc. But it is what it is – very much a cultural thing. None of my English or European friends moved back into their family home after uni whereas all my Singaporean friends did.
I’m hardly a Type A person but living on my own for four years meant that I had grown used to a certain way of doing things, which I like to look at as my own way of life. It was what a lot of what I had discovered about myself by being far from home for an extended period of time. Growth, if you like. Now moving back into my childhood home somehow curbed a lot of that growth – absolutely nothing to do with my parents but absolutely everything to do with my subconscious. I found myself reverting to the headspace that belonged to my 18 year-old self – entitled and lazy, waiting for food to be put on the table and for my laundry to be somehow magically done.
Then there was the part of me that missed the liberty that comes with being the master of my own space. There I was, occupying a space that was governed not by my rules, but by my mother’s. And my mother is not an unreasonable woman. In fact, she recognized how I might be feeling and told me that I needed to tell her whenever I felt too stifled or how I might like to make the home part of my own again.
But nothing can replace having a room of one’s own.
Was I worried that my mum might be offended that I wanted to move out? Yes. Was she offended? No. After all, she had left home when she was 16, braving her way down to study in NJC from the slums of sentul in KL. I was silly to worry, because if anyone was to empathize, it would be her. So here I am, in her apartment, paying her rent, grappling with utility bills, wifi bills, credit card bills etc. but every bit happier for this physical space to call my own that I can fill with pretty things I like with money that I earn and which brings me the joy of belonging to myself.
Save for my commute to work being a lot longer [when I was living in my childhood home I could walk to work in 4 minutes, which is, as many of my colleagues have expressed, quite disgusting], moving out has, just like in the cartoon, done the following things for me:
- more hours spent writing, reading, learning and relaxing
- made me hungrier in terms of planning out the next steps in my career and professional life
- reminded me how much of a slob I can be
- allowed me to re-learn how to do things on my own / figure out workarounds… which has led me to become a lot more disciplined and creative with housework (I have since made playlists of my favourite songs which correspond to how long I should spend doing particular tasks like washing the dishes or mopping the floor)
- improved my relationship with my parents
Just as the cartoon highlighted, the last point in the list above was the most unexpected, but is the one I am most grateful for. Now that I live apart from my parents, I make a conscious effort to spend time with them rather than being around them simply because I had no choice. Now that we are on circuit breaker, I find myself worrying about them and wanting to do things for them. Today I cycled to my mum’s to drop off some porridge because I wanted to.
A couple of my non-Singaporean friends were very surprised that we live with our parents in our twenties. After all, the time comes when all baby birds must leave the nest. Though my own journey was relatively easy and painless because both mine & Rene’s parents were agreeable and the time was right for us, I can imagine that tabling the very idea of moving out might be met with resistance from other more traditional parents. But for what it’s worth, I think what really motivated me to write this post is a newfound appreciation of how to set healthy boundaries in my relationships, for there is no point in trying to set boundaries at all if you do not have a self to return to, amirite?
And while I do get the financial logic in saving on rent, I do often wonder why people place so much emphasis on saving up for the future when the present matters as much, if not more [considering one is sensible enough, of course].