What I've Learned from Living On My Own

This month marks 15 since I moved out of my parents’ house and started college, and 6 since I signed the lease on my own off-campus apartment. And I have to say: I’ve loved basically every minute of it. In all fairness, I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait to be a grown-up. To me, “adulthood” basically just meant being able to buy and eat as much candy as I wanted. And when my baby brother was born at the start of my eighth grade year, I took over the supervisional aspects of my own life – reminded my mom of my orthodontist appointments, checked my own grades, packed my own lunches, things like that. So moving to campus last August was more of an emotional adjustment than a practical one. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

1. Adulthood is totally manageable. As a kid, I remember struggling to wrap my head around how college students could possibly be in school AND work enough to pay their own bills. Some weeks are tight, sure, but it turns out millions of us are managing to do just that.

2. My parents are amazing. This one is unfortunately not a universal discovery of first-time movers out, but I hope some of you can relate. I’ve been lucky to have great relationships with my parents for most of my life, but MAN. Now that I don’t see them every day, getting to spend time with those patient, wise, hilarious people is an absolute treat. And even if your parents aren’t rock stars, it’s likely you’ll get along better once you’re out of their hair.

3. Grown-ups really can do whatever they want. We believe this as kids, and then as young teenagers we sort of think, okay. There’s a lot of responsibility coming hand-in-hand with the freedom of adulthood. And that’s true, but honestly? I seriously do whatever I want. There might be consequences for eating complete trash all the time and procrastinating and spending money on clothes I don’t need, but no one’s stopping me! And when I do make responsible decisions, I get to take full credit for them.

4. Being a good roommate/friend/SO/etc. comes down to the little things. I scored three incredible roommates living on campus during my freshman year. So awesome, in fact, that I still live with one of them. After 15 months of sharing a bedroom, we definitely get on each other’s nerves sometimes. But it completely makes my day (and our relationship) when she tidies up my side of the room or picks up my favorite treat at the grocery store at the end of a long Monday. Stuff like that is way more important than always leaving the kitchen spotless.

5. I can’t control everything – and that’s okay. Even when I’m killing myself to stay on top of all my crap – my job, my classes, my health, my friendships, etc. – there are days that just don’t go my way. For better or worse, other people’s choices affect my life. Rather than work myself into a hot mess trying to manage external factors, though, I’ve learned to be relieved by my lack of control. I do my best and take the rest of it my stride.

6. Nothing builds confidence like taking ownership of your life. The big one, I think: as overwhelming as it can feel sometimes (and as much as it sucks to be a poor college student), paying my own rent and cooking my own meals and trouble-shooting my own WiFi issues does more for my self-esteem than anything else. It’s like – I’m doing it! We spend our whole childhoods preparing to take care of ourselves, and now I’m succeeding at it, one pack of ramen at a time.

As with pretty much every article I write, this list just scratches the surface – but it’s hard to squeeze over a year’s worth of intense self-discovery and emotional maturation into less than 1100 words, so I err on the side of brevity. The main point here is just to say to anyone feeling nervous about leaving the nest, whether you’re a senior in high school or college, that it will be the most empowering, revelatory experience of your life – and you can totally handle it.

 

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