Moving out on your own the first time is always a risk, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you plan for it to.
I should know, I’ve done it three times.
Maybe I should be more specific. Technically I’ve only lived out on my own once. The first time I moved out, I lived in a dormitory on my college’s campus. The second time I moved in with my then-boyfriend. It wasn’t until the third time when I properly moved out to live on my own (albeit with a half dozen roommates, because college students are too poor to live alone.)
But each time I left the safety of my childhood home taught me something new and I feel like each one was a crucial lesson I needed to understand before I would be capable of actually living alone.
That being said, I do still live in my parents’ basement, but that’s actually because of choice for once. The food’s better here and the cheaper rent lets me actually have money to enjoy myself on occasion.
There wasn’t much risk in the first time I moved out. My room and board was paid for by a scholarship, my meals were paid for, all I had to do was tidy the place and keep it up to the Room Advisors’ standards. That part was a bit rough because I’m not a naturally tidy person and neither was my best friend and roommate, but we managed it. It was a real difference living away from home for the first time and dealing with the responsibilities of maintaining my own place, but it was still rather easy comparatively.
The second time I moved out was riskier but on a different level. After almost four years of dating off and on, my then-boyfriend and I decided that it was time to live together. It was financially no concern to me, because we lived in a place where he could easily cover the rent and utilities all on his own, so I didn’t have to spend any extra money. The real risk came in the relationship, and whether or not we could survive actually living together.
Spoiler alert: we couldn’t. After three weeks under the same roof, our relationship fell to pieces and I wound up back in my parents’ guest bedroom.
It was that third time of moving out that was the first proper risk I took for myself. I moved 150 miles from home to a new city and a new university, and for the first time it was just me taking care of payments for everything.
I can admit that the initial reason for moving was based on my failed relationship from the move before. I was angry and hurt and I wanted to prove that I was more mature than him, that I could live on my own and support myself without his help. I don’t know who I was proving it to, since I haven’t spoken to him since we separated. Maybe to myself. Most likely to myself, really. But I hid all of it under the guise of transferring universities, packed up my things, and bounced.
So I found a room for let in an apartment with five other girls in it, just down the hill from our university, and I paid for the five month let in full. I quit my job, gathered all my things, and dove in headfirst.
It was so much more difficult than I had ever possibly imagined. I never knew just how many bills one has to pay every month just to have the basic living. Heating and cooling, water, trash, electricity, gas. Then we had to pay for a mailbox for our whole apartment, and because we were college students we had to have high speed internet just so all of us could manage our homework.
And then groceries!? I became incredibly proficient in the art of the PB&J and in decorating an ordinary bowl of noodles with strange toppings just so it didn’t feel like I was eating the same thing every day.
On top of it all, I had car payments I was making because you can’t really survive in Utah without a car unless you live in the heart of the capital where they actually have decent public transport. That sure cuts into your money awful quick.
I had to live off of my savings for the first four months because apparently it’s really difficult to get a job in a city full of hundreds of other college students looking for jobs. It wasn’t until after spring break that I finally managed to wrangle a part-time job working as a cashier in a gas station and convenience store. I made minimum wage and worked only a maximum of twenty hours a week, but it was just enough money to scrape by.
After the first let was over, I had to find a place that had cheaper rent. I couldn’t afford the cushy six-bedroom apartment anymore, with my savings depleted to nearly nothing and my poorly paying job. So one of my roommates and I found a very cheap little house that was renting, a mile further downhill from campus but over a 150 less a month in rent, and we moved together.
The house was small and charming, although it definitely had its downsides. For instance, neither of us had doors on our rooms so we were separated by nothing more than decorative curtains that we bought at Wal-Mart. There was no air-con, which lead to a really hot summer in the uninsulated upstairs bedrooms. Our plumbing was occasionally iffy, and our washer-dryer were a bit dodgy and rarely worked completely. But it had a cute, antique cottage feel and a porch swing, and it was cheap enough that we managed to forgive those things.
But my money, even in the cheap house and living off of canned soup, was running out. There were several months where I barely made ends meet. I had to skimp on groceries for the last two months I lived there, eating primarily the throw-aways from work. It was when I finally had to ask my mom to help me make my car payment that I finally conceded that I had failed.
It was time to move back home.
So I stuck it out long enough to finish out the fall semester and then sold my place in the house. I packed up all of my things, my parents brought up their truck, and in one day everything I owned was shipped back down to my childhood home again.
It was an adventure – a costly and exhausting adventure – but I’m grateful that I had the chance to experience it. In the end I know it’ll help me when I make the decision to move out on my own.
And most of all, I’m eternally grateful that I have parents who are always willing to catch me whenever I fall.
- Daily Prompt: Sink or Swim (dailypost.wordpress.com)