Living On My Own For the First Time

By Sam

In the 11th grade, my best friend and I made our post-graduation plan: we were going to move out. We had vague ideas about things like cost and location, but mainly we planned for the fun stuff: late nights, shenanigans, and food. That was two years ago.

Since then, I’ve moved out and have undertaken a transformative experience — one that’s led to me to learn a few lessons about living on my own.

The Little Things You Take for Granted

There are a lot of things around the house that I didn’t realize need doing. For instance, I legitimately did not know how to do laundry; I imagined it to be some high art that required just the right ratio of detergent to water. Turns out it’s dead easy and it doesn’t need to be done as much as your Mom made you think (but it is still super important). Also, things like toilet paper definitely don’t just materialize out of thin air as I learned a few times over the first year after I had to use paper towel in the bathroom.

Turns out, internet access costs money too — who knew! The great news is that if you live on campus this shouldn’t be too much of a concern thanks to UWS. But if you’re not on campus, you’ll need to search out student deals for internet. The internet bill is just one of the many little things that you might forget when moving out. You’ll discover a lot of small expenses you didn’t count on. There is an upside to this though because every new expense will help you to learn how to better spend your money.

Being Purposeful

Independence brings with it the freedom to create your own schedule, choose what to do and when to do it, and all the fun that entails. It also demands responsibility and that requires purposefulness in your actions. Choosing what to eat and when to eat it is one of the best parts of moving out. However, food can be pricey and proper nutrition can also be difficult without parental guidance. Research and grocery planning are critical here, so be mindful of what you buy and try not to shop hungry. You may make some weird purchases, trust me.

During my first year on my own, meal prep was not at the top of my to do list. Because I wouldn’t prepare meals in advance, I would end up buying something at school. Buying lunch on campus is a good option every once in a while as a treat, but if you’re doing it even 2–3 times a week you’re spending around $30, which could get you double the amount of food if made from home. Plus, you can make plenty of tasty treats on the cheap.

So what’s been my takeaway? Make a plan for how many times you can eat out in a week and stick to it. Same goes for coffee. A $4.50 latté three times a week seems innocuous but adds up fast. Make going to Starbucks something you do purposefully and not habitually.

Make a Routine

One thing I strongly recommend is automating chores like bill payments. Automating bill payments or savings deposits means you’ll have one less task to think about and manage.

Bills aren’t the only thing you should schedule. Living on your own means that you‘ll need to factor in things such as grocery trips, supplies runs, cleaning, and other house work all on top of your studies. On top of that, you’ll likely have a job that needs to fit in there too. That’s why making use of your calendar can be a huge help. If there are regular tasks that you know you‘ll need to do, plan ahead and plug them into your calendar or agenda. Also, consider setting an alarm for your calendar reminders. You’ll be busy enough with school, why not make things easier for yourself?

Self-Discovery and Maturation

I expected myself to be much more laidback when I moved out, sitting on the couch playing video games. Instead, the fact that I was now entirely active and not passive in my own life awakened something in me.

Anytime you’re dropped into a new situation you get to shed the old parts of yourself that are no longer truly you and discover new parts, and exactly that happened to me. While living on my own I discovered a deep well of passion for learning and community involvement that I hadn’t expected or experienced before. The responsibility of taking care of myself seemed to highlight my habits– both new and old– that seemed like those of a 55-year-old man. I love few things more than a nice early morning, a long breakfast reading the news, and a good pot of tea– so that’s what I choose to do every morning. Best of all, I’m proud of it. I’ve been given the opportunity to settle into who I am and to identify the moments that bring me joy, independent of my family or friends. I have and continue to mature, and I credit a lot of my success these past two years to my new self-acceptance.

Confidence and Resilience

Winter 2016 was a trying time for me; I was without a full-time job but still had all the same expenses of living on my own. I was still new to being on my own, and the realities of my financial responsibilities still hadn’t quite hit me. As a result, I didn’t put as much effort into my job-hunt as I should have, and that cost me. I got a tiny, fractional glimpse into the dark desperation of unemployment. Of course, I had no dependents and still had parental support to fall back on, so it wasn’t nearly as serious as it is for most folks in hard times. So with that in mind, I now look back on those few months as an eye opening exercise in empathy and resilience.

I think about that time whenever I might feel overwhelmed or down and out with school. Coming back from a failed test, a failed class, or financial strain is hard but absolutely possible. Being in a difficult situation can force you to look for help and it can also force you to look at your own potential. In my situation, it meant looking at the true impact of my own actions (or inactions). After that I learned to plan for things as though they would be much harder than they are. For example, I now budget my finances to have a healthy reserve of money in case I run into any kind of emergency. When it comes to University, going into the school year I always anticipate and plan for it to be much harder and more demanding than it has previously been. That way I’m never caught off guard or overwhelmed by the workload. Instead, I frequently find myself with more time and energy than expected, and crucially, I never resent school for taking up my time, because I planned for it! Plan for and embrace difficulties and you’ll find that they’ll lose their power and instead you’ll be in the driver’s seat.

You will have some disappointing moments and some times where you will feel like you’re at your limit, but I can promise you that you can find support and can move forward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and take the time to indulge in some self-reflection.

It’s not for everyone but it can be for anyone

Living on my own hasn’t been a panacea and for many people, it simply isn’t feasible. It’s not necessarily for everyone but if you want to do it and you’re willing to work for it, it can be for you.