Column: I only became truly independent when I left the dorms
During my first year as an undergrad at MSU, I was excited. Attending a four-year university gave me my first opportunity to live away from home.
I felt as though a new chapter was beginning in my life and I would be able to make my own decisions as to what happens in it.
That changed when it set in how MSU requires you to live on campus for your first year as an undergraduate student. That first year gave me some of the best moments I've experienced here, but also some of the worst.
To be frank, my first year felt like I was being supervised by a "cool mom." I felt surrounded by people saying, "Can I get you anything? Some snacks? A condom? A tailgate? Let me know! Go Green! Go White!"
My social life was active and resources were readily available. The cafeteria was easily accessible and I could practically eat my heart out when I needed to.
The library was a bus stop away and I could walk to my friends and hang out when I had time. Access was never an issue; if I needed something it was there.
However, I couldn't help but to feel alone at times. I was surrounded by so many people yet didn't feel at home; something was missing and I just didn't know what it was.
That was until I moved off campus.
Moving off campus made me more independent — like independent independent — and I connected with myself and those around me on a more personal level.
Bills were a trip, but I found myself budgeting and making sure my rent and bills were accounted for.
Lunch specials became a very important aspect of my life; although it may look like I'm contemplating and thinking about what's on the menu when I'm at a restaurant, I am literally only looking at the lunch specials and stalling.
The library — and most other stuff on campus — wasn't an option until 6 p.m., because I'm cheap and refuse to pay for parking. (I'm also pretty cheap when it comes to buying textbooks, but that's another matter.) Anything after 6 p.m. was the gold standard in terms of time, determining if I would be late or early to an event.
As for friends, I lost some, but remained with those that I will be talking to long after I graduate.
You see, time became a real thing after moving off-campus. Every minute counted, and that includes how much time and effort I was willing to spend on my friends. In moving off-campus, I quickly realized who I would put time aside to hang out with, and who would do the same for me.
I don't regret moving off campus. Although at times I feel overwhelmed and wish I could just go to the cafeteria and eat my problems away, there's a sense of bliss in seeing all the life skills I've attained.
I became more efficient with my time and more aware of what's important to me, whether that involves friends, organizations or events.
If anything, I encourage those questioning whether it's the right move to leave dorm life to take the leap outside of the limitations of campus. It may be hard at first, but it's a great investment in yourself.