Yesterday, I bought groceries for myself for the first time.
Of course I went to the supermarket before, but there is a different feeling when you are doing it for yourself and not a whole family. I was going through the aisles, my mom’s phone number at the ready, and thinking, “My family always has these, but I never really ate them,” or more frequently, “Why did we never get this kind of Ragu, it already has garlic in it!”
That’s when it hit me: for the next three months, it was time to be a big boy.
My dad often called dorm room living, “a retirement home for young people,” and he is 100% correct. I was fed, my bathroom was cleaned, RAs were in charge of my safety, a maintenance guy was always on call and there were always activities. I knew I had it good.
So, when this summer I realized my days would include putting long pants and a button down in the morning, rushing to get on the train to my 9-5 (often 8-6) internship downtown, working in my cubicle, coming home, cooking myself dinner, socialize a little and then going to sleep, I started freaking out. My younger self would have called me a big boy, and he would be right. Because while I am lucky enough to still have my parent’s financial support, I make a salary of my own and am trying to keep within a set budget. As a rising junior in college, I am getting a taste of “adult life” as my parents put it to me on the phone.
Here is what I have learned about being a big boy:
1. Get into a routine.
This should be the first thing you do because it will dictate everything else. It becomes a lot easier to plan what you need to buy, to find where everything is and to keep yourself motivated when no one is nagging you when there is a set schedule. If I don’t make time to prepare dinner for myself, I don’t have dinner. Therefore, to prevent a growling stomach, I need to set aside a stable time to make dinner and prepare my lunch.
2. Don’t be scared to break the routine during the week.
Having done the same thing for two weeks already made me go crazy. I realized that I get the opportunity to work and in the heart of Chicago and live in a town surrounded by my friends, and was wasting it. It is so easy to say you’re tired after a long day, and while sleep is key, I am now making an effort to go to performances, play some pick-up sports and enjoy all the amazing experiences that come with living in a big city.
3. Find a friend with a car.
If you do not have a car, a friend with a car is about to be crucial. Personally, I have never felt a need for a car in college because meals are provided and everything was in walking distance. However, for big trips to the grocery store or stocking up on paper towels, a car is handy. But make sure you are not being a mooch, and wait to see when your friend with a car is making these trips and just tag along.
4. Call your Mom or Dad often.
My parents keep dropping these excellent pro tips while I complain about certain parts of my day. They have suggested bringing a fitness ball to my cubicle so I can bounce around to keep myself a break and going on quick walks twice a day. This has been extremely helpful when dealing with the 9-5 grind we have heard complaints about our whole lives.
5. Live with roommates, whether or not they are your friends.
There is something about coming home to an empty house everyday that freaked me out. During the few days before my roommates moved in, I felt pretty lonely coming home and was actually dreading it. Having someone, whether you are close with them or not, that is going to be home when you are home just makes life more comfortable.
6. Make plans yourself.
During the year, there is always something going on and people are just one Facebook post or GroupMe message away. But during the summer, even if you are living in your college town, people are more spread out. However, everyone with internships is roughly on the same schedule and usually down to hang out if you have a laid out plan. Take some time to figure out what you want to do, and find the people that are most likely to do it with you.
7. Carry a backpack.
With home base no longer just across the quad, I have found that keeping a backpack with chargers, deodorant, a book, a rain jacket and maybe a new t-shirt to be extremely helpful. This also helps you make spontaneous decisions.
8. Don’t be afraid to relax on the weekends.
You work hard during the week, and might not have the energy to turn up Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Don’t feel guilty for doing this, and try to set up chill gatherings rather than finding the nearest rager.
However, with all of this in mind, the past two weeks and this summer have really just made me appreciate how much time I have during the school year. I always complain about never having enough time to sleep, but really I had all the time in the world. Class maybe took three hours a day, and during a normal week I maybe did 3-4 hours of homework at most. Those numbers with the idea that I never had to cook dinner or clean my own toilet, makes my previous time issue seem pretty weak.
In fact, I am finding that I get more out of “living like a big boy” than I ever did during the year. It feels like this is the summer of sinking or swimming, granted there are still a lot of people waiting to dive straight in and rescue me if things turn south. Long story short, I can’t wait for the months to come while I pretend to be an “adult.”