10/01/2015
My friends in exotic places

Yes, yes, social media is around mostly to tell other people how awesome your life is. What else explains seeing an endless stream of vacation photos, food photos, outfit photos, desk photos, couple photos, you get the idea, right? And perhaps the only time you see something mundane on your feeds - say, someone doing the laundry - it's often done ironically. "My life is not glamorous. Look, I still have to do the laundry!"

I know this, and I'm still trying to get used to it. I could claim, all I want, that seeing these things don't stir me like most people, I do. No matter how I convince myself that I am doing fine, saving my money for the more sensible things in life - a future together, for example - I still sit here wondering why I don't get the chance to do the things they do, or, specifically, the things they post about. Look, a friend posting a photo of her coffee cup at some third wave coffee place. Look, a friend posting a photo of a bowl of ramen sold cheaply at some hole in the wall place somewhere. Look, a friend posting a photo of herself dragging whoever she's with towards whatever door that is in wherever tourist trap they're in. Yes, I know it's shallow, and yes, I know it still, somehow, sucks that I'm not exactly in their shoes.

"I think that's smart, saving up," Nat told me in that rare video call we had a few weeks back. Well, it wasn't much of a video call because I had terrible lighting and everything just lagged.

I feel better now. And then I see those photos again.

I oscillate between those moods. It's one thing to read about all this curated lifestyle claptrap on, say, Monocle. (Yes, I still read the magazine. I guess that qualifies me as a hipster. Camille has said as much. And she should know these things.) It's another thing to see your friends actually be able to do it. But then you try justifying it to yourself. Not all your friends are like this. And indeed, that is true. Some live simpler lives, one filled with cheesy quotes and simple delights. (Okay, "simple delights" sounded vaguely cool.) Some are good enough to spare you the grisly details of their well-curated lives.

Also, there are the things I genuinely care about. I just like lazing around at home reading a good book (or magazine, as it may). Or maybe playing SimCity on my laptop. (I've gotten back to it after six months: a way to relieve stress, while simultaneously amping it up, because you know you're procrastinating when you're playing computer games instead.) I also realize that it's not fun to try to be in every cool place once it pops up - one, it's expensive, and two, it's hard to go around. I still technically live in the provinces and I do not have a driver. I have to find my own parking slot.

And then, yes, priorities. Save for the future. Do not overtly focus on the fun, wild, grand things you can do now because you're still young or something. "They're all using their credit cards for their trips," my mother told me once, reminding me that I do not like using my credit card unless I have the money to pay for whatever it is I want to buy.

Rainy and I have started talking, somewhat seriously, about taking our first ever vacation. We've been together for almost three years and we haven't been in a strange place by ourselves. It's safe to say we were happy, are happy, with just hanging out somewhere, but after my last Malaysia trip we began talking about us two flying somewhere for a change. We agreed to save a thousand bucks each every month until we have enough money for plane tickets, hotels and loose change, to somewhere, wherever that may be.

"But," I told her, "I can only start in November!"

I did tell you I bought a new iPhone, right? Slightly on a whim, because my phone died while on a trip to Cebu where I half-expected to meet with Nat. You know that already, I assume. Or not, because you're not all reading this. Anyway, that was, of course, not a good financial decision. I'm still paying it off. My six months are almost done, but it is putting a strain on my finances, pushing me to the boundaries. This is not the sort of thing one should be writing about on the Internet, partly because of the tendency for financial planners to hunt you down, and partly because that's just not how this place works. If you're writing a blog, you should always have money, and free time, and exquisite taste - or at least, be able to fake it.

As I ponder my wallet's fate, I go on Facebook and, well, see those photos again. Square ones, excessively filtered ones, of my friends in exotic places like mountains and Buddhist temples and, well, third wave coffee shops. And then my mind drifts towards my salary. I will not disclose my salary. Everybody who knows it say that it's a good salary for someone my age, but I can't help but wonder if I have stagnated pay-wise. And my friends - are they now getting thirty thousand bucks a month? Forty thousand bucks a month? Fifty? Is that why their lives seem shiny and whatever other similar adjective I haven't used yet? I mean, I can't just fly to Tokyo for an art exhibit.

I mean, I don't just fly to Tokyo for an art exhibit.

Ah, the pitfalls of being friends with people who have two, or ten, landfills' worth of disposable income. You know your life is not supposed to revolve around whatever these things are, but, you know, you cannot help but compare yourself to them. You know the hierarchy, of tastemakers being people who have sets of silver cutlery lying around the house, of people finding ways to get just one spoon, and of the rest who shouldn't give a toss, but end up doing so because... I mean, look at the conversation, and who towers over it! The only thing you do to feel better is buy that new copy of Monocle and marvel at the uncoated paper. You feel good about it. And then you feel bad about it. Like, you know, all the time.

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