Remember that old Webbie song, Independent, that starts off I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T do you know what that means? As I’ve gotten to college, I’ve seen that many people tend to have a skewed perception of what this means.
I often see my fellow peers writing about how they’ve become so much more independent since going away to college. But I want to clarify that there is a difference between “no longer having to listen to your parents rules”, and being “independent”.
When asked to describe myself, the first word that usually comes to mind is independent. Of all my different attitudes and characteristics, my independent nature is the one that I feel really shapes the entirety of my being. It’s what defines my ability to live successfully on my own 1600 miles away from home in a state that I never even visited before deciding to move there for the next four years. It’s what allows me to base my actions on my own values and opinions, instead of what the current “cool” thing is to do at the moment. It’s what enables me to have healthy relationships that aren’t weighed down by overwhelming dependency. It’s what helped me secure a job and pay for my schooling on my own instead of holding my parents liable for affording my future. It’s what makes me feel confident in my capacity to transition smoothly into adulthood. It’s not just the absence of being governed my other adults’ rules, but it’s being capable of living on my own abilities. Obviously I still have a bit of help from mom and dad but for the most part, they encourage me to do everything on my own.
Now, I can’t take all the credit for being the independent person I am today. It was almost entirely the work of my parents and the specific way in which they raised me to be a strong and self-sufficient young woman who wouldn’t need to rely on others for support. As a child, I wasn’t quite as appreciative of their methodology. When I was forced to do my own laundry or cook dinner on nights my parents worked late I often found myself jealous of friends whose parents just did everything for them and gave them whatever they wanted. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized just how thankful I am for their tough-love, character building, parenting style. They taught me so many valuable lessons and skills that are helping me every day while I’m in California, things that I was never grateful for until I had to actually live on my own.
It truly surprises me how many people I meet in college who really struggle at living independently. Adults (a title they were so eager to be called by after turning 18) who don’t know how to cook, who have never had to wash their own clothes or their dishes, adults who don’t know how to operate the oven, or how to go shopping for groceries. I’ve met adults that have never had a job or any work experience, adults who have never had to clean up after themselves, and adults who never paid for something with their own money. And it is at those moments when I appreciate so fully how well my parents really prepared me for the real world, because for these other “adults”, they don’t have a clue what it’s like and they’re suffering now when it matters the most.
Therefore, I urge my newly-adult peers to start changing today. Stop depending on other people to do what you ought to be doing yourself. It might seem like the easiest route for now, to just let others do the work for you, but soon enough you’ll be thrown into the real, real world and then you’ll wish you weren’t so far behind. So take control of your own life; take advantage of opportunities to grow yourself as an individual. Because only once you start living completely independent from others will you be able to fully experience and appreciate the freedom that you have away from home.