I believe that a parent’s experience when sending their child off to live in another country is a bittersweet one. Bitter in that the occasion, in essence, marks the severing of their first ties with their offspring; sweet as they secretly and smugly lay in wait for the shoe to drop as their child finally truly begins to understand the hardships that accompany their newfound freedom. When I left for my first year abroad, I departed with only excited thoughts of the new life that awaited me, a fresh beginning only made better with the free rein of my own apartment and no rules.
But what I didn’t take into account in my new reality was that apartment needing rent, having to be the boring one to set my own rules and the myriad of new responsibilities that came spilling in one on top of another. People are always talking about “adulting” and all the growing pains that come along with it, but little did twenty-two year old me realize that that phenomenon would befall me so near in the future (I thought I had another three years to enjoy at least!). Here are some of the instances that truly drove home the gravity of my looming adulthood in like no other:
- Managing Money
The first difficulty that any student or first-time independent encounters (short of the few lucky ones with unlimited access to daddy’s credit cards) is financially related. The startling idea that boring duties like paying bills were now as much a part of my monthly routine as my Womanly Woes was enough to warrant more than a few whiny texts back home. Worst of all, these financial obligations were putting a damper on my social life as I mourned the money that I had to learn to put aside for basic necessities such as electricity, water and internet. Everyone knows that “Time flies when you’re having fun” but no one ever mentions the dollar bills that also go flying out the window when you’re having a good time.
- Protecting yourself
As serious as it is, it’s always amusing to see the unconventional ways that we come up with to defend ourselves from potentially dangerous situations. For millennials barely out of their parents’ house, the initial realization that we’re really on our own sets off many alarms that trigger a series of unusual precautions.
While visiting a friend who was living in Bangkok on her own for a while, she gave me an excellent tip that was hilarious yet admittedly, pretty useful. Every night after coming home late she would get off the MRT station and literally hit the ground running all the way to her apartment ten minutes away. I can testify that this is real because I too, was forced to join one of her sprint sessions after a late night out around town with her. Her logic? According to her, criminals would be less inclined to come after someone who already has a running head start ahead of them because it would be too much of a chase, which kind of makes sense… If you don’t think too hard about it. But one thing’s for sure: you’ve got to hand it to the girl for doing whatever it takes, no matter how ridiculous the notion!
- Buying groceries
For me, buying groceries has always been one of the unadulterated joys in life. There’s no better feeling than sneakily dumping your own groceries into your parents’ shopping trolley and getting away without them noticing. Initially the joy of having my own trolley filled to the brim with only my goodies was almost overwhelming as I floated from aisle to aisle dumping in six types of everything my parents had ever denied me. I eventually reached the cashier and we both spent a good three seconds smiling politely at each other until I remembered that I was now a contributing member of society who had to pay hard-earned money for her ramen, gummy worms and tubs of ice-cream just like every other responsible adult.
- Planning ahead
Another friend mentioned that aside from these, other things that took a toll on him was the amount of planning ahead that accompanies being a grown-up. Planning ahead for food (something which I never successfully mastered during my year abroad because I was always raiding my favourite Seven Eleven dry or eating out or ordering in) is an essential for survival as a mature adult. Planning in advance for transportation is also an annoying burden, especially for those who have been chauffeuring themselves around for years in their own cars. Whether you’re taking a boat, train, bus or walking, it’s always a tiring jolt of reality for someone newly independent.
Either way, the only thing consistent about growing older is the amount of surprises along the way. Whether it’s a nasty surprise or a pleasant one, there’s always something new that’s going to hit you when you least expect it. Let us know in the comments below if you had to learn to be an adult the hard way and throw the rest of us struggling ones a few tips while you’re at it!