After graduating from college, I knew I wasn’t moving back home. Boston is a cold and cruel place. Not really, but it’s just not for me. I decided to stay in North Carolina with no job, no family, and not a lot of friends. The first place I moved to, after my on-campus apartment (which I shared with a friend), was an apartment complex, close to another university in the next town over. This place was primarily student housing, but my roommate turned out to be a babysitter in her 30’s. I only stayed there about three months before my lease was up.
The next place I moved was also primarily student housing, close to a school known for its parties. At the time, it was difficult for me to find an affordable apartment that wasn’t student housing. Aside from the low rent and electricity bill allowances, I dreaded every moment of it. My roommate was a mess, my closet flooded a couple of times, and the walls were super thin. For someone who actually had a job that they needed to go to at 8:00am, thin walls close to a party school was not ideal. I was super excited to finally move out and get my own place, but once I did that, I learned a few new lessons.
1. Heat is expensive. I spent most of the winter in my bedroom because, aside from the bathroom, it was the warmest room in my apartment. I wasn’t used to paying an electricity bill, so when I saw that price tag, I knew I had to make adjustments. I placed the thermostat on the lowest, tolerable, temperature and loaded up on those blankets.
2. Let people know where you are. There isn’t someone at home that will notice if I don’t come home one night. Therefore, I always let someone (mostly my mom) know where I am in case an emergency happens.
3. Having your own space is great. When I come home, I just want to be. I spend all day at an office talking to people, being harassed by fluorescent lights, and looking at numbers. When I come home, no one is talking to me. I can light a candle, take a bath, write, or just sit in silence and it. is. great! But I must admit, it can be lonely or boring sometimes, so it’s important for me to get out every once in a while.
4. You have to find ways to entertain yourself. There aren’t any roommates or family members to drag me out of my home. Also, since I don’t have a dog anymore, there’s no dog to take outside every day, even for a tinkle. So here’s how I fixed that. I joined a few meetup groups on meetup.com to meet people with similar interests as me and maybe go out with them when events are planned. I became a Rover.com dog sitter so, not only do I get to play with other people’s dogs, I also get paid for it. Lastly, I made it a goal to see the few friends that still live close to me at least once a week.
5. There is no one to let you into the apartment if you forget your keys. There’s also no one to lock you out. Once, I took my dog for a short walk and left my keys and phone in my old apartment. Although the door was closed, I left it unlocked so that I could get back in. In the 15 minutes that I was gone, my roommate came home and locked the door behind her. For about an hour, I walked around looking for a security guard that could let me in or at least someone with a cell phone. Finally, after banging on her window for a while, my dog and I were able to get back in. I no longer have to worry about being locked out of my own apartment now.
I’ve learned a great deal about myself in my first year living alone. From self-care to home care, to adulting. I’ve learned that roommates are not for everyone and neither are pets. I’ve learned to be very aware of my surroundings and even started taking self-defense classes. And lastly, I learned that friends and family play a very important role in mental health.
What are some things you’ve experienced or learned from as an adult that lives independently?