Walking across the stage at college graduation. A rite of passage that was honoring the culmination of years studying, balancing jobs and classes, and after calling home to let your parents know that you’re still alive, some socializing (ahem a lot of socializing). All that hard work came to the final event that symbolized the start of adulthood. “You are now graduates of Michigan State University” could be heard through the whole basketball stadium. And onward we marched, a sea of green towards the start of our adult lives. Or so I thought.
I had this idea that at graduation I was supposed to have it together. A job, paid all my own bills, lived on my own, had more or less some stability in my life, contributed in some significant way to society, and had a variety of interests and talents. The reality was that a few months before graduation I turned down a job offer that I knew would not make me happy. So there I was in the sea of green walking towards an unknown fate. It seemed like every 5 days I had an existential crisis. I probably cried myself to sleep every other night. Ok I’m kidding, every third night.
After a few months I got an offer that looked good to me at first glance and jumped at the beginning of my new life. I was ill prepared for Chicago though. I couldn’t keep up with rent living by myself, raise a child and afford all the gas my monster truck ate up. I was naïve to think I could do everything on my own. I had two separate roommates during the last year I lived in the city. Reality hit me shortly after the 2nd roommate moved out; I could not afford to live in Chicago anymore. I admitted defeat and called my sister and her gang to help move me out. She was happy to have me home, but I left feeling like I had failed.
I admit this with a lot of embarrassment, being so transparent because I WAS supposed to have it together. 2 years in the city and I couldn’t get my footing. And here I was moving back to my hometown to move in with my mom. It was embarrassing. I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t permanent and that I was doing the best I could with my resources. It’s taken a lot of time to build up from January. In February, after having my son on a state co-funded insurance plan I was able to afford to pay for his premium through my job, in March I paid off the last of medical bills I had so I could start saving, in May I made the last payment on my credit card, in July I purchased a new car, and today I got my car insured under my own policy. Being financially independent and resourcefully independent has been a long, slow and often painful journey for me.
If getting to financial independence was difficult (and I’m still not all the way there), then the other lessons of becoming an adult were 100 times more difficult.
When I was 10, I couldn’t tell you what I liked to do. I was supposed to like school (and like a nerd, I did) but I had no real interests. Up until a year ago if you asked me what I liked to do for fun I would panic. I barely had enough time to shower let alone find time to do anything fun. I always had this mentality that hobbies were a waste of time and all your brainpower, time and energy should be dedicated towards your job and your purpose.
I have come to realize though, that it’s not a healthy way to think.
Hobbies are a way to relieve stress, to challenge yourself where your job may be unable to do, and to help you meet other people and have something to connect over. I realized that having a hobby also helped me to not just talk about what I’m stressed over all the time with my friends. Some of my friends were supportive of what I was going through, but other friends felt like I was a drain and they distanced themselves from me. Had I realized a hobby would help me be a better friend I probably would have maintained more friendships and even made new ones. Socializing is a necessary part of being human. And that’s another lesson I’ve had to learn too.
If I could explain to you what it was like the 3 months before I moved back from Chicago, the best way to describe it is walking through life with a 20-pound weight tied around your heart and your brain filled with jell-o. I had gone full out numb and done. Had I voiced the thoughts I had in my head to anyone during those months, it would have gotten me checked into a psychiatric ward. The pictures from that Thanksgiving haunt me at how dead I appeared on the outside as I felt on the inside.
I had gotten to that point by isolating myself, by not having anything that could take my mind off the stresses of my life, and by ruminating every single moment of the day over every mistake I had ever made.
I came back defeated but with one goal in mind, get back to healthy so I could move on with my life.
And that’s exactly what moving back has allowed me. Not only do I not have to go everywhere alone, I have more time to spend time with people and things I enjoy, and I have people who can watch my son while I go hang out with a friend, just go to the gym for a little while, or do some volunteering. Because I live in a small suburb and not in the center of a huge city I don’t have to wake up extra early on my days off to get groceries and wash laundry all before it gets dark out. It allows me to stay up late and read, watch movies, or write. I know that as much as I wanted it to be, I could never get to healthy in Chicago by myself.
Moving back from Chicago was extremely humbling. God knows I needed to be knocked down a few notches. I know that every decision and indecision I’ve made has led me to this point, but I now know that this journey has taken me exactly where I needed to be.
Had it not been for leaving Chicago feeling defeated I would have not been able to grow.
I may never be able to defeat depression, and life will probably always throw me curveballs as far as finances go but I now have actual skills to be able to cope and survive through both.