In my sophomore year of college, after taking a gap year due to COVID, I transferred to NYU. I saw it as a fresh start, a new beginning in a post-COVID world. Due to high dorm prices and recommendations from NYU alumni, I decided to live in an off-campus apartment. I found an affordable studio apartment for one that my heart was quickly set on. “Are you sure you want to live alone; it’s going to be challenging at times” my parents said before we finalized the lease. I brushed off their concern, regarding it as typical college parent angst.
One of my goals in life has always been to reach a state of independence, to feel like an actual adult.
Before I even moved in my expectations were molded into my mind. On weekdays I would lock myself into a studious and focused version of myself without any roommate shenanigans to throw me off. Then on weekends my friends will come over to a nonstop party with no one to tell us what we can’t do. However, it was not long until I’d realize that my expectations and idea of “independence” was merely a fantasy.
A few weeks after settling into my new home, I started to understand my parent’s concerns. Living alone was much more challenging than intended. I dismissed the fact that it wasn’t just a new apartment, I was moving into a new city, new campus and a new environment. At the time I had a few friends at NYU, but not as strong of a social circle as I have now. At times I would go weeks with minimal social interactions. Without company it felt like I was completely responsible for all social interactions on my own.
There was no partner in crime to alleviate some of my social anxiety.
During my freshman year of college, living in a dorm really proved to be my catalyst for making friends. When one of my friends seemed busy, I’d go to another friend’s room and knock. This luxury did not exist in New York. It felt a lot more complicated making simple plans with my friends while living in a more isolated environment.
It wasn’t just social challenges I faced living alone, there were also more practical issues. I felt less motivation to get simple tasks done. My bed was hardly ever made, more of my clothes were on the floor than in my hamper and if you went into my kitchen, you’d assume I was attempting to set a world record for most dirty dishes in a sink. I realized that living alone didn’t give me anyone to push me out of my comfort zone or give me the incentive to be a proper living mate, and at the time it felt like I couldn’t do so on my own.
Toward the end of the first semester, I felt mentally worn living alone. I’ll never forget the piece of advice my mother gave me while on a call with my parents one night.” “Things will get better but it’s going to take some time. You have to be okay with that”. She was right. I came back to my apartment after Christmas, with a new mindset. I focused on my reality rather than my expectations.
Nothing drastic did change overnight like she said, however, I learned to appreciate the little accomplishments. I made along the way. I gave myself credit for having the courage to start fresh in New York. For every new friend I made, every academic achievement I made and every time I ran the dishwasher, I took a step back and recognized my progress.
I realized that being kinder to myself made me a better roommate.
Over a year later, I enjoy living alone in my new apartment more than I ever thought possible. I enjoy having my friends over frequently for dinner or just hanging out on a Friday- but I also love spending time with myself. Without having expectations of how living alone is supposed to go, I feel much more secure. I still don’t know what it means to be an “actual adult” but can safely say that navigating the highs and lows of living alone has given me a clearer direction toward independence