by Vanessa Palencia
People told me that being an adult isn’t easy. I didn’t realize how difficult it could be until I became one. It’s only been a couple of months since my 23rd birthday, but it feels like I’ve been stuck in the “in-between” phase of my life for ages. And let me tell you, it’s not easy.
Last summer, I had a falling out with my mother over a miniscule problem. Even though the fight was both ridiculous and minor, it was too much for me after many years of obeying the rules to keep the peace. So I decided that, at 23, I needed to move out. It was time for me to form my own ideas and grow myself as an individual and a woman. I needed to develop my identity as a mother without constantly being in my own mother’s shadow. Unfortunately, we live in an era where it is financially difficult to move out on your own in your early twenties - especially if you’re a single mother and live on the West Coast, where a two-bedroom apartment can cost over $2,000.
The people you surround yourself with will influence the kind of person you will be. However, my mother and I have different mindsets. She is more traditional and conservative while I am more modern and open-minded. She always focuses on the negative, and I always find the brighter side to things. She is always worrying about something, and I am more carefree. As a result, when I was living with her, I constantly refrained from voicing my opinion, which I knew was unhealthy for me. I knew then that I had reached that point in my life where I had to spread out my wings and leave the nest. Unfortunately, prices for rent were ridiculously high, so there was no way I could afford to move out on my own. After considering my options, I decided to ask my father for permission to move in with him and my step-mother, who both had always supported and encouraged a more free and open-minded way of thinking. It was the perfect and only option at the time. Fortunately, they agreed and I moved in as quickly as possible.
It wasn’t until my son and I had moved in that I realized that they had only agreed reluctantly. They were trying to help me, yes, but our presence had shifted their dynamic. There were two extra people who needed to get ready in the morning. Two extra people who were disrupting their daily routine. Two extra people that just didn’t quite fit in a house made for just two. This discomfort made me seek out weekend stays at my boyfriend’s house and live-in pet sitting opportunities for neighbors in order to avoid staying too long at my father’s house. And so began my nomadic lifestyle.
Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad if I was doing all of this on my own. But unlike most 23-year- olds, I have a 6-year-old son, so moving from place to place isn’t exactly ideal. Having your things packed in duffel bags and in the trunk of a car doesn’t allow you to feel at home, nor does it allow you to create a stable environment for a child, which is a necessity. I have tried to find comfort in the idea that home is where the heart is, as most people say, but there is something about having a place to retreat, a constant and stable place, that is truly magnificent.
That isn’t to say that you cannot find peace in your loved ones and know that you are loved. Throughout this period of my life, my son and my boyfriend have been my rocks. It is because of them that I have been able to remain strong and persevere through this turbulent way of living. However, the lack of stability has led to more personal pitfalls, such as lack of sleep, lack of motivation to complete homework assignments, and a disorganized workout and food schedule. I knew before all of this that a routine was essential to creating balance in work and home life, but this experience has taught me the value of it.
You may think that I am writing all of this to ask for your sympathy, but I’m not. No, I write all of this to warn you that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and that’s okay because everything that life throws at you is a lesson learned. It doesn’t matter if you end up bankrupt or heartbroken. What matters is how you deal with it. Life decided to make a vagabond out of me for this time frame in my life, and while I could have wallowed in it and thrown a pity party for myself, I decided to endure the storm and learn from this journey. I have found drive and motivation to become the independent individual that I have always wanted to be. Maybe I could have become independent without all the hassle of a nomadic lifestyle, but this journey has pushed me there faster than I could ever imagine. Life is scary. You will get beat down. You will be pushed. You will be challenged. But it is up to you to decide what to do with that situation. Will you succumb to the storm, or will you become the storm?