For most of my life, I have prided myself on having what my friends would call “street sense.” I may never have had the same academic smarts as my peers, but I made up for it in all the other equally useful but less prized real life skills. I thought these skills were the key to my success after college. For the last few years, I’ve been operating under the assumption that when I graduate and leave this place, I’ll be more than ready to live by myself, have a “real” job, and do all the things that grown-ups do. I had this 1950s vision of getting a job and getting married and maybe raising a family. I had these wonderfully romanticized ideas of how things would go and I knew nothing about what the realities were.
To be honest, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to solve problems on my own; it was something like a challenge. Only when I was desperately befuddled would I ever consider asking for help. If I broke one of my toys or something when I was a child, I’d fix it myself. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather, who was something of a handyman, and I fancied myself to be one too. I just assumed that once I grew up, that same plucky independence would be able to carry me through whatever else may come up throughout my life. Surely I could teach myself how to do all the things I would ever need to do. Now that I’m older, I still have these wonderful dreams of learning to fix the basic problems with a car, being able to fix a water heater, or any other number of absurd problems that came about. So far, not a single lesson on cars, water heaters, or anything else has been learned.
Now that the prospect of graduation is drawing ever closer, as is my impending move one thousand miles away, I’m starting to question my abilities to thrive while living on my own. I have no idea if I possess any of the skills necessary to live on my own without some significant guidance. Budgeting? No idea really. Paying bills? Never done it. Making investments? Wouldn’t even know where to start. Hiring a lawyer? Yeah, right.
The problem is I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to do to try and rectify this. For all the important life lessons you learn in college and beyond, they sure don’t teach Living on Your Own 101 or Growing Up 230. Last year, an editor wrote a piece about a post-college survival guide handed out at the graduation fair, and I agree with his assessment of that book. Sure it teaches you some silly little miss manners type of things, but it certainly doesn’t teach you the real things you need to know when living on your own.
The real truth is that unfortunately there is really no quick lesson guide to all the stuff you wish you knew about living on your own. Oh, I know you can call up your parents and beg for the help to solve your problems, but the point of growing up is to try and be independent from your parents. I’d rather not go running to my mom or stepdad every time I needed advice on how to stop some sort of appliance from going haywire.
I suppose the reality of my situation is that I chose to spend the four years of my undergraduate degree living in the safety and comfort of the dorms I can’t exactly blast. While certainly it was the “cheaper” option (yeah, right) it doesn’t exactly prepare you for living on your own or the real world. All it takes is one phone call to your RA and most problems can be solved. Even the on-campus apartments are no better. When we didn’t have hot water for a few days, one phone call was made and we had maintenance out to solve the problem, and they didn’t stick us with a bill. If I’d had the brains, I would have gotten an apartment here in Keene and at least attempted to stick it out on my own for most of my time here. Instead I get to head off to graduate school next year, in a new state I’ve never lived in without any real family nearby. I get to attempt living on my own for the first time by actually living on my own. What an exciting time for me, I guess.
Chelsea Mellin can be contacted at