For the past 3 months this summer, I have lived in a studio apartment by myself. My roommate recently moved in with me, and I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned from my first taste of adulthood. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to have a place to myself for the summer, as renting around this area is ridiculously expensive (but still cheaper than living in the dorms). Living alone has forced me to be more aware of how I cook, use my space, and spend my time all by myself. Waking up to myself every day has forced me to become more aware of how I truly behave when no one is watching. It’s been truly liberating at times, yet imprisoning in moments of insecurity. But all these experiences have naturally led to lessons that I am grateful to have learned:
To appreciate my parents’ support more. I was determined to stay in college and move into an apartment on my own with the hopes that it would allow me to not only learn to become more independent in all aspects of my life, but to also appreciate those that have made it possible for all this to happen. Ever since coming to college, I phone my parents at least once a week to update them on my life, as well as ask for their suggestions on issues that I’m dealing with.
Over the summer, I have come to rely on their mentorship even more. I would often phone my mom to ask her if it was still okay to cook a sprouted potato or what to do about the mini-slugs that kept appearing in my bathroom, and her answers always reassured me. I grew up watching her maintain the clean, beautiful and organized home that I was raised in, and I have naturally grown accustomed to living in such conditions when I came to college. Though not having her by my side made things more difficult, it forced me to tackle every issue on my own (after having googled it or asked my mom first, of course). I would phone my dad on issues about academics, health, and other issues of living alone. My dad has always guided me throughout my academic career, and though we certainly have differing views on education, his words never fail to comfort me. When I’m feeling frustrated about my classes or confused about what I’m supposed to do about anything, he gives me his take on the situation and lets me think about it myself.
My parents trust me enough to let me make my own decisions. Though I would like to believe that I am a very independent person, more often than not I’m very insecure about the choices that I make. But I notice that whenever I resort to my parents for their guidance and they give me a nod of approval (or disapproval), it eases my anxiety. It makes it easier to make a decision when I know that my parents support me. This has made me realize how similar I actually am to my parents, and how much I rely on their support and confidence that I have not yet fully developed on myself.
To listen to myself and nurture my needs. I don’t think I will ever stop surprising myself with newfound feelings and emotions. Living by myself meant that I was stuck with myself even when I didn’t want to. I did not truly put myself out there socially this summer, mainly because I wanted to spend a lot of my time cooking, reading, writing, and just seeing how much adulting I could do by myself. But as much of an introvert as I am, I think I may have secluded myself too much. It made me realize how bad I am at keeping in touch with people, at making plans with others, and simply initiating conversations.
This summer I also experienced some minor health issues; I started experiencing knee pain (on both knees, lucky me), an old injury in my left foot started up again, and I was also waking up in the middle of the night almost every night. I was working out more and pretty active most of the time, but beneath it I was and am not handling life as well as I could be. Though I had successfully moved into a very nice apartment, there were issues with the current tenants that intruded my thoughts almost daily. Unfortunately, I let my thoughts get to me, and I did not handle them as well as I could have. This showed me how intricately connected my mental and physical health are, and the dangers of dwelling over things for too long.
Understanding my relationship to food. I spent a lot of my time learning to cook, planning meals, and understanding how to feed myself balanced meals of protein, carbs and fats. I think this is a huge investment for anyone at any point in their lives, as you get to use it for the rest of your life. It’s one of the most essential survival skills, and one of the most healthy and helpful ones that you can cultivate. I learned to buy weekly groceries, plan meals, try out new (albeit simple) recipes, and mainly learned to not be afraid of cooking, which is a big victory for me! I experienced a few burns and small cuts here and there, made some disgusting and/or failed meals, but nothing that would deter me from learning more about cooking.
To be okay with not being clean all the time. Back when I was living in the dorms and sharing a room with two other girls, I only had to make sure that my desk, bed and closet space were clean enough for me. We vacuumed the carpeted floor one or twice a month, though it didn’t really matter because the carpet’s dark color masked any dirt on the floor. My dorm floor shared a co-ed bathroom on the floor and I ate at the dining hall, so cleaning the bathroom and kitchen were not an issue.
But now that I’ve moved into my own space where I have to clean my room, in addition to the kitchen and bathroom, I noticed that I had a slight obsession with keeping things a little too clean. The first few weeks of living here consisted of me cleaning and wiping every surface immediately after using. It seemed like a reasonable me-thing to do, but I gradually accepted the fact that not only was this unreasonable, it was also needlessly time-consuming. I had enslaved myself as a maid to myself. I gradually told myself to just stop it. Now I only clean my apartment about once or twice a week, and wipe the surfaces and vacuum whenever I think it’s necessary. A little mess doesn’t really bother me, as long as my bed and desk (my precious areas) are clean enough on the surface.
It’s absolutely liberating at times, imprisoning in others. Not having to close the door when going to the bathroom. Not putting on clothes immediately after showering. Playing soft background music all day long. Watching videos without ever having to put earphones on. Knowing that no one will ever walk through the front door, but me. Dressing up in different outfits and being able to walk around the apartment in them. Putting makeup on myself poorly, and laughing at myself about it.
But it also meant that I had to take extra precaution about my living environment, ensuring that I locked the door when I went out or came home, or making sure I hadn’t let anything turned on. Coming home and not having anyone to talk to. Not having anyone drag me out when I was stuck in my introverted shell. This led me to…
Dealing with solitude. As much time as you have to work on yourself when you’re living alone, solitude can be imprisoning at times. I feel that I am my best working self when I know that no one is watching me, judging me. But sometimes it was hard to keep up my motivation when I wasn’t feeling very perky myself. However, this feeling of solitude led me to reflect upon the type of solitude that I wanted for myself in the future. Somewhere not too busy, not smack in the middle of a city. Maybe in the suburbs, surrounded by parks and nature, where I can go to whenever I’m seeking some alone time in nature. Where I can drive or commute to convenience stores that are not too far away. Somewhere where my thoughts are not easily distracted by random external factors all the time.
This reflection on solitude also made me realize the type of company that I want in my life. Earlier, I talked about how much I have come to appreciate my parents’ presence and support in my life. I feel more appreciative of them now because there is now a palpable distance between us. The physical time that we spend together is limited, and they understand me enough to call me no more than a few times a week. Our relationship has become sustainable and satisfying, at least from my side. That’s the type of company that I want when I look for friendships and relationships.
During the academic year, I meet lots of people who easily become acquaintances and, some, even friends. But few of them will ever become close friends; not because they’re flawed in some way, but simply because. But their company will bring me a lot of memories and experiences, and that’s the beauty of meeting new people, regardless of how long they stay in my life. Though I certainly have a lot to learn about meeting people, making friends, and just putting myself out there, this reflective period has enabled me to see the value of company as what keeps us alive, inspired, and happy.
Living alone these past few months has also showed me how I’m not fully ready to live on my own – just yet. It has also made me realize a lot of things about myself (even if in a hard way), which are things that I can now work on. As much of an introvert as I think I am, I depend on the few important people in my lives to thrive. I still get FOMO when I see what others are doing on social media, I still let negative thoughts get me down, and I’m totally not fully comfortable in my own skin yet. All of these things have truly surfaced in these past months, so I guess that means that I’m still my parent’s little girl 🙂 Even though I’m almost 21!