Leaving for college is always a big step, no matter how far from home you’ll be. Whether you take a plane across states or just a walk down the street, heading to university life requires a new kind of independence. After all, leaving home is generally one of the first steps to becoming a full-blown adult.
Of course, there are plenty of different journeys to adulthood. And often, distance away from home can affect your new level of independence, but that may not always be the case. Even being close to home can result in a good experience (like in the post, College Life Forty Minutes Away From Home). What it really comes down to is how fast you choose independence over dependence, and the right pace for that is different for everyone.
Whatever pace is yours to follow, waking up to a new and independent life is exhilarating. Don’t be afraid of letting go of the comforts you may be accustomed to now. Little by little, you’ll find that opening your eyes to life on your own doesn’t have to be a painful process.
Inevitable Changes in College
In my case, I was living close enough that I could drive home for holidays, but far enough that I felt my parents’ absence. Obviously, being away from my parents left me on my own in a lot of ways. No longer was I able to open the fridge knowing that I could eat whatever food was in there—or even that there would be food in the first place. No longer was I able to take the car keys whenever I had to run an errand or go to work. I had no more free housing, no more motherly catering, and no more excuses to not wash the dishes. It was a big change for me.
Of course, these were all expected changes. I’m sure you’ve heard of them before, and you know that it’s coming. In fact, it’s this kind of independence that kept me excited for the new experience. I wanted to be on my own. I yearned for it. In my mind, I would finally be waking up to a bright world as a full-grown adult. What I didn’t realize back then was that my initial venture into college independence was hardly what I could call “fully waking up.”
Me in the Mornings
You see, when I wake up, it takes a lot longer than I like to admit. The alarm goes off, but I’ll usually continue lying in bed for as long as possible, acting like I’m still sleepy until I can’t even fool my own body anymore. Once I do finally get up, I’ll groggily walk around without much purpose for the rest of the morning.
Usually, on a day when I’ve got nowhere to be, I’ll stay in my pajamas. I’ll be awake, but not really doing anything productive. The only thing that gets me out of this drowsy mess is a good dosage of water to my face. But that’s the last thing I want, because I know that’s what will start the day rolling, and I’d prefer to just keep lounging.
It’s not until I finally do hop in the shower that I suddenly feel alive. By the time I’ve stepped out, I feel like a new person, and my morning’s dread seems silly to me. Then, I can finally put on some real clothes and act like a grown-up who has places to go and people to see.
Still Half Asleep
This wake-up routine is a pretty good comparison to my venture into independent life my freshman year. I realize now that, while I gave myself the credit of being “awake” back then, what I considered being an independent adult was actually just me walking around still half asleep. Let me explain.
When I’m walking around groggy in the morning, I’m doing things on my own, but I’m still not fully alert. Similarly, as a freshman, I was definitely on my own and thriving, but I wasn’t completely self-sufficient. I had a lot of help from my parents, even after I’d left the coop. In effect, my parents were still holding my hand as I ventured into a bigger world. They helped me get settled in my new home, and they still payed for a good part of my bills.
So while I thought that I could now be seen as a full-grown adult, I wasn’t one. I was still only just waking up. I had a lot of clearing my head to do. In other words, I still didn’t know too much about being independent.
My Splash of Cold Water
What it took to finally get my brain gears rotating was having to face something only I could fix—something I had normally been able to depend on others for. This was, in essence, my splash of cold water, my morning shower, my jolt into reality. For me, it came with things like finding and paying for my own insurance, buying my own phone, and just taking over my own financial status. For other students, the splash of cold water may be something far different.
Whatever it is, there’s always that moment right before, when independence really starts to look scary. Suddenly, being an adult doesn’t have the same allure. Paying bills, making your own meals, finding a real job, all of these things can be something that makes you not want to step into that shower. For me, I didn’t want to grow up anymore.
Finally Waking Up
But believe it or not, waking up isn’t so bad. You know that; you’ve done it every day. It’s a lot different of a feeling to be walking around groggy versus walking around full of new energy. The second option sounds pretty good, right? And believe it or not, growing up isn’t really so scary once you’ve done it. In fact, it really is invigorating, because once you step out of the shower, the day can look so much more promising.
I like to think of those face wash commercials, where they always show someone splashing their face with cold water and then looking up at the mirror with a refreshed and rejuvenated smile. That’s the feeling I compare with my experience of “waking up” as a college student, realizing that while it may have taken me longer than I originally expected, I really have grown up. I’ve accepted that I’m on my own in a lot of ways, and I’m looking at the mirror with a face that says I’m ready to face the day.
Like I said before, the process of waking up to adulthood is different for everyone. What it takes, how it happens—those things are going to be your own story. Maybe you are like me and prefer to take it slow, easing yourself into the shower once you’re fully ready. Or maybe you prefer to do it quick, splashing yourself with cold water to wake yourself up. Either way, you’re taking a valuable step into a new, bright world. And it all starts with just opening your eyes.