By Amanda Ruzylo, IATG ContributorJuly 11, 2016
What does it mean to be independent? Is it the moment you purchase your first car? When you leave your parents to live on your own for the first time?
Or is it a single moment at all?
I don’t believe that becoming fully independent happens in a single moment.We become independent through every choice we make and every experience we have, good or bad.
We are often judged by our levels of independence. In our teenage years, we’re criticized by our friends when our parents don’t allow us to attend the “wildest party of the year”. In our country, our independence is measured by freedom of speech and choice; where having an opinion is celebrated and not reprimanded.
We use varying definitions of independence to judge each other’s personal lives. However, what many fail to realize is that we all become independent at different paces and in different ways.
Personally, I have always viewed myself as being an independent individual.
Growing up, I was perfectly okay with being on my own, content with the idea that I didn’t always need a friend, sibling, or parent with me at all times. However, as I enter my second year of university, I’ve realized how the term independence differs for individuals depending on their stage in life.
A handful of expectations arise when you head off to university or college: living on your own for the first time, cramped dorm rooms, best friends you’ll know for life, handling the stress of school as well as obtaining a vibrant social life, etc. In my first year experience, this typical university “right of passage” (which stereotypically paves the path to independence) was not what I chose.
Instead of becoming best friends with a roommate or becoming sick and tired of the bland campus food, I opted for a different experience: I stayed home.
I still received the same education as others, except my first year experience did not include dorms, wild parties on a Tuesday, and late night laundry loads. Throughout the year, I constantly felt pressure from others who would ask:
“You’re not staying on campus? How are you making friends? Are you worried you’re not getting the TRUE college experience?!”
“Well I mean I wasn’t before but now that you mention it…”
Answering these questions quickly became mentally exhausting and repetitive. However, I eventually came to realize that although I was not experiencing the typical first year of a college student, I gained independence in other ways. Instead of living on my own for the first time, I got my own car; providing a whole new set of challenges that many others my age would not get to experience.
Moral of the story: we all experience different forms of independence in a variety of ways. Sure, I will not have the experience of living away from home at the age of nineteen. However, that doesn’t mean that that time will never come.
Feeling independent is great, but don’t feel pressured to follow the most obvious path, because you think it will take you to where you want to go.
Because the truth is, we’re all going to get there if we’re willing to put in the effort and have a little patience. As young adults, we all seem to be in a rush to become independent. Let’s slow things down, take a breath, and remember that independence will only come if you’re ready to embrace it.
Everyone’s steps towards independence look different. Today, try to take a small step to gaining a little more independence, whether it be apartment hunting or cooking your own meal, and remember that tiny steps can lead to great changes.
Amanda is a first year university student who resides in Southern Ontario, Canada. While tirelessly working to obtain a degree in Media & Communications Studies, she enjoys the simple pleasures of reading a good book, creative writing and binge watching crime and comedy shows on Netflix. You can follow her day to day (more like week to week) adventures on instagram.