I spent my growing years, like many do, with my parents, family members and 4-H leaders teaching me how to think and perform tasks for the inevitable phase of independence. Many times, I was tired of hearing the broken record, "You know, I'm not always going to be around to do this for you." I felt I had learned my lessons well and was prepared to go off to start my life. However, now, having experienced the ultimate step to independence, I feel there are some aspects I was not as prepared for.
In 2009, I was thrilled to have been accepted to my first choice college and graduate high school. I proceeded to college in the fall, and, like any young person going off to school for the first time, I was excited for the new-found independence. I quickly learned, however, that with no job there to sustain me, I was not as "on my own" as I thought.
I was forced to live off the money I made while at home for summer and winter breaks, knowing in my heart that it would not be enough. Many times, I made that panicked call to my mom for more money to pay for the farrier to trim my horse's hooves, pay association fees or pay for gas so I could go home. She rescued me every time, but I knew that it caused stress and frustration.
Knowing that my four years of college were coming to a close in 2013, I needed to decide if I was to continue my education or look for employment. I started to think about paying back student loans and decided that looking for a job in journalism, my area of study, was the logical choice if I could find work with adequate pay. After all, why extend my debt any further?
During four years at my small college, my professors taught me one thing - not to expect a job at the top of the food chain. In addition, I knew that my parents had worked through the ranks in their career fields. I understood that this new, fancy degree did not mean I had the real world experience many publications would be looking for. The search began and so did the uncertainty. Where in the country would I find employment? Would the pay be adequate to be independent?
So, like many of my friends, I graduated with no job prospects even though my family kept telling me everything would work out. My summer progressed and, while I was getting interviews, I was not offered a position. The fear of nobody hiring me, living at home without a job and the prospect of having no money to pay back student loans continued to plague me.
After another rejection in August, my mom proposed that I give it one more month and then decide to go back for a master's degree or get any job to have some money going into the bank account. She said, "When it is meant to happen, it will happen quickly."
I again shook off the feelings of worthlessness and found a job posting that was specifically looking for a recent college graduate - someone with my very basic college experience. I applied for the job, and a whirlwind week later, I was offered a position. I happily accepted the position, but once again my mind began to race and fear set in. I had to find an apartment and insurance. What about furniture, what about monthly bills? The list went on and on. One of my childhood lessons kicked in - I had to stay focused, so a priority list was compiled and I took one task at a time.
Within the week, I located a modest apartment. What about furniture -what did I really need? My family offered friendly suggestions, gently used items and, of course, financial assistance. Again, that was figured out quickly. The move itself to the area, two hours away from home, has gone smoothly. The greatest difficulties adjusting to my new independence has been paying the bills, managing my money and setting a hard budget.
However, now that I've been what I would consider officially on my own for about a month, I feel like I have handled everything that's been thrown at me so far. For example, I received my first bill for cable and internet. I was shocked to see that they were not only sending me the bill for the current month, but also through December. While it seems like a lot of money, budget-wise, it will be easy to plan for as the amount will not change.
I have really begun to live within my means as best as possible, so that I can have the independence I've longed for. It has been a month of both stress and fun in terms of figuring everything out, but I believe that I've adjusted well to the change. I look forward the rest of the year and ultimately what my time here will bring.
Lauren Kershner is the cops and municipal government reporter at The Sentinel in Lewistown. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.