This is an essay that appears in my book, "Don't Forget to Write"!
I’m not sure when I realized that I had entered the adult world, but it started somewhere around paying my own car insurance, not owning any furniture, and living by myself for the first time in my life. It was uncomfortable to say the least.I accepted my first job while I was still in college, so I spent most of my time studying and taking finals, instead of looking for a place to live.
I had just a few weeks to find an apartment and since it was such short notice, it wasn’t ready for me when I needed to start work. For the first few days of my professional career I had to live in a hotel room before moving into my apartment. Who starts their post college career living in a hotel room?
Now, I had become a "professional.” What did that mean? Actually, it meant that I needed to buy a new wardrobe of expensive clothing. My typical college outfit consisting of jeans, a t-shirt and a school-spirited sweatshirt wasn’t going to cut it at my new job. I needed new dress shirts, new dress pants and new dress shoes. But I didn’t have any furniture either. So I wasn’t sure what to buy first: furniture or clothing?
The only item I did manage to buy before moving into my apartment was a TV. I had graduated from college just around the time of flat screen TVs entering the market, so every store was in a hurry to get rid of their tube TVs. Still, I didn’t have a couch, so I had to sit on the floor to watch TV.
Very quickly, I started to realize how many modern conveniences I was lacking in my apartment.
I have a headache! Crap! I don’t have any pain relievers!
I need to clean my kitchen floor! Crap! I don’t own a mop!
I need to take a shower, but I don’t have a shower curtain! Crap! Water is going to get everywhere!
So, I did what any American with a headache and in need of a mop and a shower curtain would do. I went to Walmart. Once inside this mecca of shopping, I realized how many other items were missing in my apartment. I needed a full length mirror, batteries, laundry detergent, pencils, envelopes, hand soap and bathroom rugs. The list of items grew as I walked down each aisle.
Eventually, I could no longer put any more items into my cart. It was becoming too heavy for me to push. Also, standing at five feet and two inches tall, I could no longer see over the top of the shopping cart to safely steer it around the store. Walmart had conquered me and it was time to go home.When I reached the checkout counter, I was shocked to learn that I had spent over two hundred dollars at Walmart. What single person spends this amount of money at Walmart and doesn’t have some electronic device or groceries to show for it?
When do I get my first paycheck?
When I returned to my apartment, I quickly learned another joy of apartment living: carrying all your stuff up the steps. Fortunately, I lived on the second floor so it wasn’t too difficult to bring all my purchases inside, including my full length mirror, rugs and shower curtain.
A few years ago, my mom made two pillows out of that shower curtain from my first apartment. When I look at them, they often remind me of the early struggles of adulthood. I’m sure that there were many other trips to Walmart during that first year in my apartment, but I don’t remember them as fondly as the first trip. I remember my cart being so full, and giggling, as I pushed it around the store.
Looking back, it almost seems like a metaphor for life. I still often relate to steering that shopping cart, while not being able to see ahead of me. It’s sort of equivalent to trying to steer my ship in life. I haven’t been able to see where I’m going, but it’s sure been fun getting there.