Real world responsibilities impel growing up

I have always been a child – in more ways than one. I was the girl who would procrastinate on any school assignment so she could hang out with her friends. During my freshman year here, I was notorious for finishing papers literally minutes before they were due. Needless to say, I’m not proud of all of my grades.

When I was a kid, I would start talking about my November birthday so early my mother made a rule I couldn’t talk about it until that month. I still give her a Christmas list, and I had a minor fit when I found out that graduating college was the official cutoff for Christmas stockings and Easter baskets in my family.

And although I have not outgrown all of those tantrums (the Christmas stocking conversation occurred last week), I have found myself contemplating the difference the last year has made in my life. My lifestyle, perspective and priorities have been altered since I graduated from the University.

One year ago, I was living in a Dinkytown apartment with three guys and another girl. Our kitchen was normally full of dishes and smelled, and for several months there was an empty keg in one of the back hall closets. The living room was home to what my roommates dubbed “the man couch” – a six-piece couch comprised of three recliners, two fold-down tables with cup holders, and drawers to hold movies (or beer).

Many if not most of my weeknights were spent at Stub & Herb’s, with my many friends and co-workers; it was not unusual for me to drop $30 in one sitting. Weekends were often spent dancing at First Avenue or The Lone Tree. It was not unusual to catch a ride from a friend or just walk home. Around 2 a.m. was my usual bedtime.

Flash forward to today: I work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and I go to bed around 11 p.m. so I can manage to get up in time for the 45-minute commute. I go to a bar typically one night a week, and only party in downtown Minneapolis about once a month. I am more concerned with how to pay off my credit card bills than how to afford spring break on a shoestring budget. And I save as much money as I can for the future: the anticipation of marriage, a house, kids, and who knows what else. I feel the increasing need to be responsible – something that almost makes me crazy since I’m not used to it.

Part of this newfound need to be responsible is due to my previous fiscal irresponsibility. As a student, I bounced a lot of checks, paid a lot of late fees, ran up my credit cards and didn’t even have a savings account for the past five years. When I decided it was time to stop wasting my money on overdraft fees, credit card interest, and parking tickets, the need to turn over a new leaf began.

For better or worse, part of my personality changed last August when I walked across the graduation stage to receive my diploma. Living farther away from my friends, not spending half of my life at the bar, and working 8-to-5 each day have forced me to spend more time alone. And I’m surprised to say, I don’t mind it that much. It has allowed me to learn things about myself I never had the opportunity to know when I lived a fast-paced lifestyle.

For example, for as long as I can remember I have hated being alone. I constantly wanted to be with people: talking, having fun, doing anything, even just sitting – as long as I
wasn’t by myself. I often would become bored within an hour of being alone. No book or movie or distraction could keep me entertained enough unless another body was present.

I still have my moments. For instance, I’m sure my fiancée cringes when I try to wake him up on Saturday mornings when I am already bored by 11 a.m. But, generally, I have discovered the pleasantries of solitude for short periods of time. And I have even come to crave some time by myself.

But not only has my lifestyle changed since I graduated, my perspective has been altered in just a few short months. The future, and how prepared I am for it, is important to me now. I don’t need 100 people around me anymore; I find myself relying on my five or six close friends for support and for fun. I’ve started thinking about what I want to do in life and what makes me happy, rather what things would be the most gratifying in the short-term.

I can sense the transformation happening in myself. At first, I felt awkward about the fact many of my friends are still bar-hopping every other night of the week. I felt like I should force myself to join them because I would have the same fun I used to. But I know I wouldn’t. For the first time, it’s clear that finding the niche that makes me happy is the most important thing I can do.

It’s kind of nice to finally grow up.

 

Erin Ghere’s column appears alternate Mondays. She welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]