The Deviation

I am out of the conversation. It's been a long time since I've been part of the normal, typical conversation. I've had a few lunches and dinners with officemates and they talk about the married life, having babies, and raising kids. They talk about tuition fees, college educations, and how children these days are so different from our generation. I play with my food and imagine the world has swallowed me whole. Especially when they remember that I'm around and then they focus on me and ask me when I'm going down the road well-travelled. Marriage, families, babies, kids, the whole package of the acceptable, responsible life.

They would always tell me that I should adopt their kids or fund their children's college education. It implies that I don't have any responsibilities outside myself. It implies that I don't have anything to worry but myself. I don't carry the weight of the world, or at least the weight of an entire family. It implies that my life is selfish.

I know being unfettered by the usual responsibilities is something that I will always be criticized about. I remember my officemates telling me, back when I was a new hire, that the worst managers are the single, male managers, because they will never know what it's like to have responsibilities. They'll never know what it's like to be a single mom with one or two kids. Or an entire family to support. I fit that description perfectly.

When my manager went on maternity leave and I was delegated to manage 20 people, it was draining. I had to keep in mind everyone's personal life. What are their constraints and motivations? When someone asks permission to work at home to take care of her child, I have to shift to her perspective and imagine what it's like to be a single mom juggling work and a child. But I also have to consider that such privileges like working from home are not abused. It's hard to find a balance, especially when I know I will always be criticized for not knowing what it's like to be in their shoes.

It's even worse because my officemates know where I came from. The pedigree of graduating at the Ateneo and then working in the US before joining the company. On the surface and to a lot of people, I live a privileged life.  And so, in their mind, they think that I don't know what it's like to suffer and be burdened.

When they ran out of things to talk about, they'd turn to me and ask me, "Why did you leave US again?" Them and their American Dreams.

I take it all in stride. But having deviated so far from the road well-travelled leaves me open to criticism which, I think, is unfair. It's not like it's my choice that I can't get married here or raise a family. Society is cruel to us.

Sometimes I wonder if I should feel shame for living a different life. But that's all I do--wonder. Because at the end of the day, I owe no one an explanation on how I live my life. I just have to get used to the fact that when it comes to normal conversations, I'm better off with a glass of wine.


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