Take the steps to cut the cord, claim your independence
By Melissa Stefanec
When I was in college, there were two types of people.
There were those who, over any break or weekend trip home, brought three overstuffed sacks of laundry for their mothers to wash, sort and fold.
Then, there were those who knew better than to ask to simultaneously be treated like an adult and an 11-year-old. Those individuals may have arrived home with the same number of overstuffed sacks, but they knew the only thing they were getting out of the deal was free laundry soap and the use of laundering facilities.
If you are a college student who is still living under your parents’ roof, you know which school you belong to. Have you reflected on why that is?
In my opinion, college is time to start prepping for adulthood; it’s not a time to try to escape it. Believe it or not, you can prepare for adulthood and still have lots of fun. If you are someone who is treating college like an extension of high school or middle school, here are some ideas on how to break the cycle and free yourself.
You might just discover the path to self-reliance is actually pretty sweet. If you take the path and still think it sucks, at least you are training yourself for real life and can start acclimating to adulthood. If you need some motivation, think about how awful it will be to crash into adulthood at 25 with no experience or coping mechanisms.
— Clean your dorm room or apartment
I’m not suggesting you should feel obligated to make your surroundings sparkle, but you should try to maintain some level of basic decency. A messy, filthy living area makes for messy, incoherent thoughts. When you accomplish small things like making your bed or doing some dishes, the rest of the actual obstacles in your day seem a little easier.
Find a job
First off, having more than $18 in your bank account is awesome. Second, having a job makes you better at a lot of things. It makes you better at managing your money and time. It necessitates prioritization. It holds you accountable to something besides your classes and whims, which, let’s face it, can be reckless at times.
Having a job also makes you a more desirable candidate when you finally go looking for the great 9-to-5 gig. You don’t need to work a ton of crazy hours; just get out there and work.
Stop asking for deposits
College bills add up fast and educations don’t come cheap. Almost everyone understands this. However, you can’t treat your family like a long-distance ATM.
Instead of asking for another $40 for mug night and the associated late-night calzones, tap into your own funds for play money. Or, if you don’t have the money, sit it out.
You probably aren’t going to be asking your parents for money for wing night when you are 30, so you should ask yourself how much dignity there is in asking when you are 22. Put together a budget and try to stick to it. No one has ever actually regretted making and adhering to a budget — literally no one.
Pitch in around the house
When you head home for the weekend or holidays, don’t treat it like an all-expenses paid resort. I’m not suggesting you be a slave to your parents during every break, but pitching in around the house will go a long way.
Offer to do a load of dishes. If you have your old high school friends over, pick up the basement the next morning. Try to leave your old place like you found it.
Make your own doctors’ appointments
If your parents have always seen to the administrative tasks in your life for you, it’s time to start managing yourself. Make your own medical appointments. Switch doctors or dentists if you don’t like the ones your mom picked for you when you were seven.
Once you make an appointment, don’t rely on your parents to remind you about it. Use a task-tracking app or a Google calendar.
Cook a meal
If your cooking knowledge starts and ends with the precise time it takes to microwave a burrito or Insta Mac and Cheese, it’s time to add to your skills. Adult life can’t be all take-out; you’ll go broke.
It also can’t be a seven-day rotation of your favorite flavors of Hot Pockets or you’ll grow weak and bored. Learn how to make some basic things, like a stir-fry, pancakes, marinara sauce or roasted vegetables. Cooking for yourself is usually healthier, cheaper and far tastier then the alternatives.
Ask your parents
about boring stuff like mortgage interest. Bills suck. No one likes them. But, you know what sucks more? Having to learn all your life lessons about bills the hard way. Before you are out of the house, ask your parents to review some boring adult stuff with you.
Ask them to go over a mortgage or rental statement with you. Ask for a breakdown of that family phone plan you’re on. Call around for quotes about what car insurance will cost if you aren’t on your parent’s plan.
Ask to see one of their paycheck stubs so you can see what percentage of their income goes to taxes, health care and other deductions. Having this information at your fingertips will likely keep you from making a lot of bad decisions down the road.
Earn (self) respect Feeling like a kid is awesome when you are a kid. However, there comes a time in life where feeling and being treated like a kid is debasing. There comes a time where the cons really outnumber the pros.
Being self-reliant and self-sufficient begets respect. It begets respect from your family and friends, and it starts building your self-worth in a way that is wildly refreshing. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to start calling the shots in your own life.
You’re in the driver’s seat
When you start calling the shots, for better or for worse, you start controlling the future. Small acts of independence start adding up and, before you know it, you have the power to make good things happen for yourself. If you fall down, there won’t be so many people in the know. You can quietly self-correct. Autonomy is an art; all you need to do is practice to get better at it.
Get help when you actually need it
When you start being more self-reliant, your family and friends will certainly take note. They will also likely admire your efforts. So, if and when the time comes that you need some legitimate help, whether it be financial, emotional or logistical, your family and friends will likely be there for you.
If you have shown yourself to be a hard worker, they won’t worry that you are taking advantage when you ask for help. Instead, they will probably readily offer it.
Once you start cutting the cord, the liberation and empowerment will feel amazing. Going into the world with a degree is only half the battle. The other half is won by achieving life smarts that many of your contemporaries won’t have.
Those smarts are going to make the big obstacles in life a lot easier. Isn’t that sort of leg up worth the trouble of sorting your own whites?