by Alisa Damaso
I’ve always been a late bloomer. I prefer to do things right the first time and observe from a safe distance to learn through others’ accounts and mistakes in order to avoid making my own blunders as much as possible. But that’s stupid. Everyone knows you’re supposed to surrender yourself to follies and get your ass kicked by your own life experiences. How else would you learn in a way that’s meaningful to your individual perception of the world? And how else would you develop character without making retarded mistakes and then absorbing the valuable lessons they teach you?
Being the only female and youngest child of first generation immigrant high-prole Filipino parents probably contributed to this late blooming. I wasn’t allowed to host or attend sleepovers, have a boyfriend or go out with friends until high school, and even then coming home past midnight would send my parents into a fit of rage — they feared I’d get raped or murdered or abducted by aliens, because apparently I can’t take care of myself. There was a lot of rebellion and angry feminism once I turned 18.
I got my license and first job at age 19. I didn’t have my first solo plane ride/trip or start socializing, partying and experimenting until age 20. I hadn’t traveled abroad until I was 22. All these events were made possible by me, and I’m very grateful to have experienced any of these things at all, but I feel cheated out of crazy teenage adventures, meaningful relationships and personal growth because I’ve been kept from them and been taught to play it safe. For example, I don’t go into public pools or the ocean because of infections I may catch through my cooter.
Consequently, I’ve become more adventurous to make up for this.
So why have I never moved out? For one, I graduated college amid the height of a global economic meltdown and no one wanted to hire a post-collegiate artfag writer. So I stayed with my parents and got a bunch of weird part-time jobs to pay my bills and save up for an eventual move out. Second, it’s common for Filipino kids to stay with their parents until they can support themselves. And although I’m not traditional in the least, it’s the most sensible thing to do during a shit-storm recession. My parents didn’t have a problem with it, and my brothers unintentionally followed this template one way or another.
Living with my parents has no doubt helped me fiscally, but it has harmed me developmentally.
My problem is, living at home made me less ambitious and more complacent. Don’t get me wrong — I strive for bigger and better situations, but racing to reach them while clawing at the competition seems scary to me. I spent my adolescence as an introspective recluse and it’s shaped me to be more of an observer than a participant. So it took me longer to develop the courage to do things. And since college, I’ve been slowly chipping away at this outer shell and allowing my spirit to grow.
Despite my paranoid upbringing, I have zero regrets. My circumstances constructed my identity. They made me resilient, tenacious, ravenous. My ambition is stronger and my spirit has evolved tenfolds. I’m fucking tired of being comfortable and stagnant for so long.
So now, I’m taking action. I’m finally moving out of my parents’ place.
I’m more organized, educated, keen and confident than I was at 18, which is when kids usually leave the nest for college. I probably would have screwed myself over in the long run if I was given so much responsibility that soon. I mean, I’m 25 now, and I still feel like a dumb kid.
With the incredible selflessness of my loving parents, my amazing boyfriend, and my awesome brother and sis-in-law who are opening their home to Ryan and me while we look for an apartment (and while I look for employment), this move toward adulthood will be possible. And in San Francisco, where there’s more trees, less attitude and fresh air. I won’t be missing L.A. for a long time.
Here I am, a quarter-centenarian child, hurling toward new crazy adventures, meaningful relationships and personal growth.
And I’m pretty sure I’m ready.
Yeah, I’m ready.