This time next week, you’ll be getting a filler post (a poem I wrote in college) as I settle in to my new apartment. It’s by no means my first apartment, or my first time living away from my parents’ house, or even my first time living in this particular faraway state. I can change a tire (on any car but my own– my damn wheels appear to be stuck on by forces you usually only find in a Harry Potter book), I can shut off a water main, I can cook without burning down the house and do my own coin-operated laundry.
My family has always been highly independent, so dealing with my own problems and my own schedule has never been a problem. I’m a mature, responsible grown-up. I’ve been dying to move out for months.
There is no reason for this to be a huge and terrifying move, but it is.
Why? And how do I deal with that stress?
I Need an Adult.
About 90% of the stress of my First Big Move is self-inflicted.
In my mind I’m going, holy shit, someone’s trusting me with an apartment. Me. I still stay up until 2 AM playing video games in my boxers on weekends. If given the opportunity, I will eat an entire box of Froot Loops out of a popcorn bowl.
I love Pokemon. And Dwarf Fortress. And I still check my old Neopets account once in a while. Everywhere I live, I come up with a plan for the Zombie Apocalypse. Not to mention, I work an average of four days a week. I spend the other three writing sci-fi novels and a non-monetized blog.
And someone’s trusting me with my own apartment? They take me at my word that I’m going to go out every day, job it up, and then pay them money?
Who the hell thought this was a good idea?
Except I also like wine and cheese, and reading by the fireplace. I love my job. I’ve had a steady paycheck since the school year started back up, and it’s not like I spend my money frivolously. My last impulse buy took me a week to actually impulse-buy. I can use the word “tangentially” properly in conversation.
I am an adult. I just don’t feel like one.
The other 80% of the stress comes from the knowledge that I’m paying for this place with my money, that I earned. It’s not a school loan or the (boundless) kindness of my parents. It’s a responsibility I’m actually taking on and dealing with.
This is somewhat less for me than it is for others: my wonderful, excellent, generous parents have made it very clear that I always have a safety net. When she realized I was freaking out about this, my mom took me on a walk and started me naming every couch I could crash on if I went completely financially arse-up, utterly SOL. Herself and my dad, of course, but also my grandparents, my cousins, my aunts/uncles, even distant cousins.
Nevertheless, this is my most legitimate concern. And it’s a lot harder to deal with. Knowing my safety net is a big one, but also sitting down and figuring out what money I have coming in, what costs I’ll have over the next few months and how I’ll be able to cover them until I have actual money coming in. Planning for the summer, when I have no income.
Times, They Are A-Changin’
I’m going to ramble for a moment.
When I was a kid, I really identified as a child. I was a huge advocate for kids’ rights, constantly scribbling up petitions and debating with adults as to why and how children were (and are) second-class citizens. This is a position I stand by, and one I’ll likely write more on sometime in the future: but where other kids my age celebrated their milestones, I was thrown into a legitimate existential crisis.
At thirteen, I was legitimately thrown off by becoming an official “teenager”: I could no longer call myself a kid, I thought, and that bothered me.
At sixteen, I could drive and therefore could no longer protest against having no control over my schedule, or my own life. I was still furious about not being able to vote.
At eighteen, I could vote. And I woke up the morning of that birthday and was enraged that nothing had magically changed, that I wasn’t suddenly Adult Alex. It made no sense to me that, on that day, I could vote and move out and do all this grown-up stuff but I was still the same person I was when I was seventeen. My entire life had been leading up to this point where I was suddenly a legal human being in the eyes of the government… And I hadn’t done a damn thing.
I felt like I should have passed some sort of test, I told my friends. Like there should be some challenge or gauntlet to run, work to do.
Things were supposed to change.
Five and a half years, two degrees, a dorm room, an apartment, and a house later… I feel like I’m finally hitting that challenge.
Time to run the gauntlet.
This is probably not news to most of my audience. I have tons of friends who achieved financial independence years ago, and plenty who have a little ways to go.
But the concept of this whole terrifying, exciting, bizarre moment in my life is so amazing to me. It’s utterly universal: every human being for the extent of our consciousness has dealt with growing up at some point or another. In fact, it’s more than that: every creature in the world that has a parent has had the moment where they have to survive on their own. It’s incredibly common.
So how is it so incredibly personal?
And how is it still so bizarrely difficult?