Serena Lalani, second-year journalism student.

Photo: Dana Dwaik

Through My Eyes: ‘Little did I know how difficult the adjustment would be’

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By Serena Lalani

For 17 years my parents took care of me and supported me financially. They made me three meals a day, kept the house clean and drove me anywhere I wanted to go. They gave me money for going out with friends, money for food, money for clothes and never asked for anything back. But I was obsessed with the idea of living on my own.

Moving out, in my mind, meant ultimate freedom and no one nagging me to do things I didn’t want to do. Little did I know how difficult the adjustment would be.

I had no idea what I was doing in my first few months away from my parents. I felt lost walking down the streets of Toronto. There are only a few subway lines in this city, and yet I still managed to end up at Finch instead of Yorkdale, twice.

This city has ridiculously crowded streets during most hours of the day which helped me feel sane — until it was time to go back to my empty apartment. The thought of being on my own every day from that point forward was absolutely terrifying. Most of my school friends commute so no one had time to come hang out before or after classes.

Having no one to talk to after a long day and no one to eat meals with wasn’t something I thought would bother me. But honestly, I felt so alone. It was strange to be in a quiet environment all the time and I wasn’t sure if I could ever get used to it.

It was also the little things that made me miss being taken care of — like having nobody to help me hold all the grocery bags on my 15 minute walk home or nobody telling me how long I can leave my left-overs in the fridge until they go bad.

I started working a part-time job to pay for my living costs and to keep myself busy. My work shifts started right after my classes ended and I couldn’t find the time to keep up with my assignments or readings. I found myself going to school at 11 a.m. and coming home from work at midnight.

What I made wasn’t even enough to cover my monthly expenses. Before moving in, I hardly even thought about the cost of groceries, internet, hydro and transportation. Just to get to and from work on the TTC was costing me $100 a month. When you’re living off minimum wage, every dollar you spend matters. I felt embarrassed asking for any financial help from my parents because this was something I was supposed to be doing on my own.

I went from school to work to sleep and everyday was the same. Except each day was more exhausting than the one before.

At one point I considered quitting my job, ignoring my responsibilities and moving back home to curl up into the blankets of my childhood bed.

But then I remembered why I decided to move out in the first place, because after all it was my own decision. I moved out for freedom and independence. It took me awhile to realize that independence isn’t something you get overnight, it’s something you build over time.

Things eventually got easier.

I stopped pretending that I could go another day without doing my dishes or thinking that the milk in my fridge wasn’t expired – because it definitely was. I got a calendar and managed my time. I got a savings account and managed my money. I made friends with my neighbours, climbed rooftops with co-workers, spent time focusing on my writing and fell in love with Toronto. I explored parts of the city I didn’t even know existed and I stepped out of my comfort zone.

It’s difficult to adjust after you’ve been sheltered for the majority of your life. Moving out is not effortless and it’s not simple but it gives you a new appreciation for the people around you and the opportunities in front of you.

About 12 months ago I was a stranger to this city with no direction and no purpose. But now, I have hundreds of unforgettable memories and I couldn’t be happier to call Toronto my home.

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