How Hard Can it Be? Learning How to Live Alone

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Two months into my freshman year at Florida State University, I figured out the hardest part of college: living alone. Yes, classes are challenging. Yes, balancing schoolwork and a social life responsibly proves a herculean task. But maintaining good grades and a social life while also learning how to live independently is near impossible.

I first realized that I might have a problem taking care of myself when I attempted to do laundry. Back home when I didn’t pay for laundry, I divided my clothes into several small loads. However, laundry machines cost money in college, so in an effort to save $1.35, I shoved two weeks’ worth of dirty socks, towels and underwear into a single washer.

I came back half an hour later to check on my laundry and found a pool of water surrounding the machine. It clanged, thumped and spewed water in all directions, but somehow half of my clothes remained magically dry. After covertly splitting my clothes into two different washers (as I should have done in the first place), I placed an anonymous call to maintenance–not my proudest moment.

After the washer incident, you’d think I’d learn to split up that gigantic load. In hindsight, I agree, but dryer loads cost more than washer loads, so once again I shoveled the oversized pile into a single machine. I don’t know why I was surprised when I found my clothes still sopping wet an hour later. Forced to cut the load in half again and pay for two more cycles, this disaster cost $3.50 more than just doing it right in the first place.

What I learned from this situation: A big pile of clothes equals a big pain in the butt.

My next misadventure in good housekeeping took place in my dorm’s kitchen when my girlfriend and I decided to bake pumpkin spice cupcakes. The box listed typical baking ingredients, including an egg, a stick of butter and a quarter cup of oil, so we walked to CVS to gather the ingredients.

We were mostly successful, however, one slight problem arose when we realized CVS only carried sticks of margarine. Seeing my girlfriend’s look of disappointment, I said, “You won’t be able to taste the difference.” I bluffed because I never used margarine in my life, but it looked the same; I assumed it would yield the same effect as butter when cooking. Count that as my first mistake.

Once back at the dorm kitchen, we realized they only had a loaf pan. So in another effort to save our dessert, I suggested that we make a pumpkin spice loaf instead. I didn’t realize that cupcake batter bakes differently than loaf batter–my next mistake.

When it was time to add the margarine to the batter, my girlfriend and I found the consistency too hard, so we microwaved it for ten seconds, which caused the margarine to spurt out yellow vegetable oil. At that point, we should’ve realized that it probably wouldn’t work as a butter substitute, but it was too late to turn back. Then when it came time to measure the oil, we realized the smallest unit the kitchen had was a measuring cup, so we eyeballed the quarter cup of oil–another very bad idea.

We put our disastrous concoction into the oven. The box said to bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, but we were really hungry, so we thought we could get it done in 20 minutes at 400 degrees. The perfect solution, right?

We came back 20 minutes later and pulled it out of the oven. The outside looked perfectly golden brown and crunchy. Just to be sure, I poked it with a fork to see if it was cooked on the inside. The fork came out covered in batter, so we put the half-baked cupcake-loaf back into the oven at a lower temperature for another 15 minutes to decrease our chances of food poisoning.

Eventually the loaf cooked through, although slightly burnt on the outside and very mushy on the inside. Despite its flaws, the loaf looked edible. At least that’s what we thought until we took the first bite and learned that the wrong amount of oil gave the loaf a gooey consistency and the margarine changed the intended flavor. The whole loaf and our hard work ended up in the trashcan.

What I learned from this situation: Slow and steady makes edible food a-plenty.

When living alone for the first time in college, mishaps are bound to happen, but there’s no shame in making silly mistakes. In fact, college is the ideal time to make them because it’s the stepping-stone between dependence and freedom. We’re supposed to screw up, so go out and learn how the world (or oven) works, and I promise another washer will not flood on my behalf.

Max is a freshman at FSU, a kid's book author, and has no idea what he wants to do with his life! His passion for useless information is only rivaled by his love of The Far Side comics.

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