Living Outside of the Campus Bubble

Struggling up a flight of horribly carpeted floors, dragging Ikea box after Ikea box into my modest four-walled room, this August brought along a new rush of emotions (and possibly heat stroke). This is my first year living in off-campus housing and the tiny adult in me is cheering.

The key that unlocks the front door to my peeling yellow house has also opened a different doorway as well, one less in need of oiling. Every freshman in college likes to believe that once they pass through the entrance of their dorm building, they shed their glorified high school skin and enter into maturity. The reality is, we wear that thickened skin like a safety blanket as we herd ourselves around campus that first year. We never knew just how much we would miss our homecoming court nominee of a best friend or our hormonally-imbalanced football star of an ex-boyfriend, (yes, my life was like the stereotypical teenage movie portrayal of high school). It wasn’t until sophomore year that I truly shed some of those skin layers, embracing as much independence as one could living in a campus dorm. Following this pattern of growth, junior year has brought change and a newfound sense of freedom: one that comes with accountability.

No longer do I have the option to rely on communal bathrooms, cleaning services, or dinning halls, and I discover myself thriving in the independence. Often I find myself wiping my bathroom with Clorox wipes with pride and writing memos (memos!) to remind myself to bring the trash bins to the curb on trash day. I now send pictures of my home-cooked meals to my family, boasting about the chicken stir fry that I’ve eaten for five days in a row, when in High school I could barely make Kraft Mac & Cheese.

I now have my own room which offers invaluable self-reflection and decompression time at the end of the day. My closet is color-coded, floors are vacuumed, and almost always; my bed is made (except for those early morning meetings). I’m not forced to spend every waking moment in the presence of someone else, but I often find myself wandering into a friend’s room with my blanket and a bag of Skinny Pop when in need of some camaraderie.

As only a junior in college, I’m still nowhere close to living on my own. I still call my mom when I have questions about which spices she uses on her famous potatoes, text my dad about stock market scenarios, and communicate constantly within our family group message (mostly about what my seven-year-old cat is up to), but it seems more independent than it has before. Maybe this can be attributed to my growing self-awareness while away at college, but I finally feel myself shedding my old habits and moving forward with my life as a young adult.

Living with eight girls in our own house is, at times, stressful and sound-proof inducing, but it’s brought a new layer of skin that I have just begun to get used to: maturity.