At the end of my freshman year of college, I packed up everything in my dorm room, loaded it into my parents’ car, and…
drove it seven minutes down the road instead of five hours back to Maryland.
I needed to take a class over the summer but also needed a job because that’s what summers after high school are for. Work and make money. Now I obviously could have done all of this at home where my paycheck wouldn’t have gone towards rent, groceries, and gas. I could’ve gotten in-state tuition at the community college back home. The one where so many kids from high school go. I could’ve gotten a minimum wage job five minutes from my house. One where I would’ve seen so many kids from high school. I haven’t already hit my peak and I don’t miss those days one bit.
So why didn’t I suck all of that up and take the road that made sense financially?
I had already been living in a different state where I knew absolutely no one. I didn’t know where anything was. I didn’t have a car and had to figure out the bus system. I had to figure out how to fully take care of myself.
I had already moved on from my life in Maryland. I love my family, but I’m anything but a homebody. There was nothing for me back home. So I did what I knew I needed to do. I wasn’t leaving North Carolina this summer. I had a good job lined up and figured out the local community college application. I found an apartment to sublease (shout out to Jackie!). At the end of finals, I went home for a few days and bought my first car. I may have drained my savings account, but I had everything I needed. That week was the last time I was going to live at home and it was a rewarding realization.
I was a mess the first week on my own in the apartment. I didn’t know the roads. I had never gone shopping by myself. I hate to cook and, frankly, I’m not the best at it. The place made a lot of its own noise, which was especially noticeable in the silence of night. I lost a lot of sleep that first week, always thinking someone was breaking in to kill me and steal my little TV from 2004 that I found in the basement back home. How was I going to keep myself alive all summer?
Next week is my last week here. Next week I’m going back to my same freshman year dorm with my same freshman year roommate and our same freshman year rug. Though I can’t wait to live with people again (let’s see how long that feeling will last 😉 ), I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I’ve grown this summer.
Yep, this is how I spent most of my evenings.
I no longer burn every pancake I try to make.
I’ve figured out how to make basic meals with minimal burns and spills. I only got delivery twice all summer. I had to go back to packing a lunch every day for work and it wasn’t completely soggy and disgusting. I also didn’t have to share my ice cream. #winning
I’m no longer terrified of every sound ever.
I go to sleep without thinking I’ll wake up to a knife hovering over me. I push that thought way back. I came up with quite a few defense and escape plans during that first week- I haven’t had to use them yet, but I won’t jinx myself ;). I also got a white noise app and wish I had thought of it sooner. If you live alone, you need one in your life.
I love having a queen size bed to myself and turning the lights on or off whenever I want. Nights are now a time of reflection, planning, and relaxing before a busy tomorrow.
I’ve learned the power of a good playlist.
I made a Spotify account maybe a month before the end of the school year and I have no idea why I waited so long to do so. I have it on nearly all the time now. One of the benefits of living alone is you can jam out in the shower for as long as you want. On the weekends, I love to find a nice, chill playlist to make breakfast and clean to. In the evenings, I find some new artists and listen to them while I’m doing dishes. At night, I shuffle my most-loved songs playlist and add to my ever-growing list of all those I know by heart. I’ve never been a music nerd and I don’t think I ever will be, but I have a greater appreciation for how it can really turn your mood around (check out this post for my good mood playlist).
Most of all, I learned the confidence that comes with independence.
I have a key ring with the key to my own car and my own place. I can walk in after a long day at work, dump my bag on a chair, and plop on my bed to catch up on the Snapchats of the day. I meal plan for myself. Okay, I wouldn’t call it meal planning, but thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner definitely gets me through the 2pm office slump. I go grocery shopping by myself every week. I’ve gone to the mall. I’ve gone thrift shopping and shoe shopping and random other errands. I’ve had to call tech support- on the phone. I’ve eaten out by myself. I’ve taken weekend trips to visit my roommate in Winston-Salem and an old friend in Wilmington. I take out the trash, I vacuum, I watch the Today Show over coffee, and I call my parents on Sundays. I go to spin class. I’ve even killed a cockroach, though I’m permanently scarred from that one.
I’ve built this new independent life for myself and it’s so beautiful. I know I don’t need someone with me to do these things. I may still feel a little awkward going out by myself sometimes, but at least I know I can. This is what being young and free and figuring life out is all about. People may joke about #adulting, but it’s a good feeling. Whether you did your own laundry for the first time or got up before noon, it’s your accomplishment and no one can take that away from you.
I was only here for three months, don’t judge my lack of decoration.
So whether you’re just starting college this fall or you’ve been living on your own for years, take pride in the little things. Accept that you don’t have to have everything figured out right now because it will all come when you need it most.
I believe everyone should live alone at some point in their life because it helps you understand yourself. You learn what you’re capable of and then some. You also learn to appreciate those moments when you walk in your old home for the first time in months or catch up with an old friend after a year apart or finally learn the way to the office without using a GPS. You don’t have to go gallivanting through Europe by yourself to find yourself. When you get back to college in the fall (or if you’ve already graduated and see all of us youngsters going back), you’ll have something that’s yours and yours alone. And that’s priceless.
~What did you take away from being on your own?