Just there

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This was something I wrote for my Nonfiction Workshop class. It’s not perfect but I’m working on improving it. Thoughts? 🙂

As of this writing, it has been two years, three months, and more or less sixteen days since I started what I thought would be a very exciting yet daunting period in my life—college. Along with it was also the start of my dorm life. Here is a list of some of the things that I like about it (so far):

Top 5 Advantages of Being a Dormer

  1. Dorm = Philippines in a nutshell.

Although it should’ve been obvious from the beginning, I didn’t realize how the dorm seemed to be like a mini-Philippines until I actually got to meet the people who stayed there. Everyone came from different parts of the country – from as far as Baguio, to Cebu, all the way to Mindanao (like Zamboanga and General Santos).

That fact excited me since I’ve always wanted to have friends who came from somewhere other than my own province. Also, meeting them also meant that I get to learn their culture, what it’s like living in their own place, and especially their language. It was interesting for me hearing them talk in their native tongues and trying to understand them through context clues (and validating it after asking them, of course). “Diin ka na?” which is Hiligaynon for “Where are you?” and “Nagkaon na ako,” which is Bicolano for “I already ate” are some of the phrases I learned from them; we learned different dialects from each other. “Unya, dili ko ganahan ana.” (I don’t like that) It’s Bisaya but there’s no doubt that they understood that, what with us speaking in our dialect for quite a long time already.

It is also a relief to have someone to talk to in Bisaya after almost a whole day of striving hard to speak in Filipino, something I used to do only during our Filipino class back in high school. With them, I didn’t have to worry if I had an accent nor did I have to face the task of translating. Things were just more natural.

  1. Having my own room (also known as “My Me Corner”)

Since our house only has one room—enough for the four of us in the family—one of the things I looked forward to was having my own bed, my own desk, my own corner. Not that I didn’t like having to share a bed with my mom and my brother. It’s just that it felt nice having a bed to myself as well as getting to fill my corkboard with pictures, memos, and other things I wanted to decorate it with.

Having my own personal space just felt like an outlet for me to do what I’ve always wanted to do for myself and not having to worry about compromising for a change.

  1. Less Distance, Less Hassle

One of the most convenient things about living in the dorm is the fact that it’s just there. I didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic or having to go home early from meetings or different org activities because “where I live” is just right across the street from the school campus.

Not being a morning person, and being the heavy sleeper, I had to face the challenge of waking up early for 7:30 AM class every day during the first semester. There were times when my trusty alarm clock would fail to wake me up on time—apparently, not being loud enough to do the trick—that, by some luck (or lack thereof), I would bolt upright and realize in horror that it was already ten minutes past my first class. After my initial state of panic, I’d remember that my classroom was just a few blocks away, leaving me enough time to do my morning rituals in a hurry and still be able to get to class within the acceptable grace period.

  1. The Smell of Freedom

With my parents not being here, I admit feeling relieved of not having to worry about parental guidance and their rules all the time. Although I still text them every so often about my whereabouts and ask them permission to go to my friend’s house and such, there are things that I am able to do without having their prying eyes on me, like being able to go to different events, watch late-night screenings of movies with my friends in the mall, or just being able to use public transportation on my own as often as I’d like.

Though it may seem rebellious or selfish to some, being able to do those things can be liberating. It allows me not only the chance to express myself more but also to experience the world on my own.

  1. …and Independence

Not having my parents around also means having to rely on myself to get things done. Here, I learned to be on my own and do things on my own, things like washing some of my clothes, getting up every morning, budgeting my allowance, making my own decisions, and the like. At first, it seemed hard and too big a responsibility but once I got used to it, I eased into doing those.

Although I must admit that there are times when I feel like it would be nice to have some help from my parents (or at least someone else), it just feels nice to have this sense of accomplishment after everything’s been done, especially when they turned out right. I may not be the best at doing those things but at least I know I’m on the right track. Also, I can’t help but feel grown up.

Living in the dorm has been a blast. Then again, like every other thing, there are times when it isn’t.

***

“Unya, mingawon ka sa imong mama ug manghod?”(So, are you going to miss your mom and your younger brother?), my high school teachers asked me during a break we had in-between our graduation practices. With a shrug, I answered, “Baw lang.” (I don’t know). I didn’t really know.

Ever since I was in grade school, I had attended the same school, Holy Spirit School, all the way to high school. Just a ten-minute drive from our house, it was easy to commute to school with my brother every morning, and just as easy for our mom to fetch us from there, after I was done with my piano lessons. I found it interesting that some of my classmates in high school had to stay in a dorm or a boarding house for the weekdays. They came from other towns and had to stay in the city during those days for school. Maybe, I should have seen it coming, that someday it would be my turn to live away from my own home.

Although most people don’t know it, there had been times when I got the chance to stay someplace else. Other than the occasional sleepovers at my cousin’s house when I was young, I’d sometimes luckily qualify for regional competitions that required me to stay in another place, usually Cebu, for the duration of the competition. Instead of going there with my family, I’d be living with my schoolmates and teachers.

During those times, I thought it was fun and interesting to live away from my family in a completely new environment, something different from what I was used to. I thought it was enough experience for me to use by the time I’d have to stay in the dorm for the whole school year come college, so it would be easier for me to adjust.

Then again, I also thought college Math was still within my range of comprehension.

***

It didn’t take that long for me to adjust to my new living arrangement. Although it took a few weeks for my roommates and me to go past the awkward stage, it was quite all right since I was with my friend from school. We eventually gained more friends (or pseudo-roommates, since they stayed in our room far too often) along the way.

But then again, I can’t help but think about home sometimes.

I found myself missing little things, like watching TV to eating champorado every Saturday morning. I also feel guilty whenever I miss family occasions, like birthdays. Before, I thought that they weren’t that important, that they were just there. But now that they’re gone, I suddenly realize how I love doing them and how important they are to me.

I guess dormers would agree with me when I say that aside from acads, we also have homesickness to worry about. I thought that this wouldn’t be that much of a problem to me but there are times when I can’t help but miss my family. Especially on Sundays.

For me, Sunday was Family Day. We’d go to church together then head out somewhere to eat lunch and talk about any topic that would come up. But now, that would have to wait until sem break and all the other breaks that I have in-between semesters. I can’t help but feel sad whenever I see families in Gesu hearing mass together. Not that going to Church with my dorm friends is bad. It just feels different.

Then again, we make the most of what we have. Distance may have separated us physically but it doesn’t really stop us from being a family. It feels nice to know that they’re just a call away and I found that really important especially during that time when I was struggling with school. At the risk of sounding stupid and pathetic, I called them up to tell them about my problems with my subjects and they didn’t hesitate to listen and give me comforting words. Ironically, that’s when I felt most that we were a family.

With late-night conversations and gorging on food delivered to the dorm and everything else that I experienced because of living in the dorm, I soon came to realize that it felt like home, too. The bond that I share with my friends in the dorm, along with the experiences that we’ve gone through together, made it feel like I found another family. It might not be the same “family” that I have biologically, my real family, but they still are. “Home” now has a different meaning: it’s not just about being in the same house as my parents and my brother but it’s also being with people I’m comfortable with, that spending time with them is always a blast.

A line from a song goes: “Home is wherever I’m with you.” I remember this every time I pack my things for the break. I can’t help but feel tired because of the hassle but I almost immediately brush it off and continue until I’m finally done. I look at all the things I still have to pack and clean but I also can’t help but remember the joy of eating delivered food, late-night conversations that sometimes last until dawn, and the almost-regular all-nighters that almost didn’t happen if they didn’t wake me up.  As much as I’m excited to go back home, I smile as I realize that I’ve been home all along.

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