Oct 4, 2011

In Which I Reward Myself for My Own Survival

One year ago today yesterday, I moved out of my parents house and into my own little apartment. (Well, technically, it was my roommate’s own little apartment, but she let me stay with her. She’s since moved on with her life.) Since this was my First Year Living On My Own, there were lots of pretty big Firsts.

Now, I tend to be pretty reward-oriented. I always have been. I spent nine years of my childhood memorizing Bible verses and participating in athletic activities just so I could get a giant gold trophy. (And, cough, for the general edification that comes from memorizing Bible verses. And also the candy bars.)

So, as I was looking back at this year and of the First Living Year On My Own hurdles I jumped, I thought it would be nice to have something similar to all those AWANA trophies. I considered getting little patches to sew on a vest, or maybe little jewels to stick in a crown, but then I realized that I actually have a lot of dishes to wash, so I should probably go simpler. Besides, if I’ve learned nothing else in this first year of real adulthood, it’s that I need to  work with what I’ve got. Which is, in this case, a pen, a smart phone, and a blog. I’m nothing if not resourceful.

So instead of renting out a hall to present myself with awards that moths and rust destroy, allow me to welcome you to my…


Find a seat, get comfortable. I’ve been practicing my acceptance speeches all day, so should be able to keep this succinct. If not, I’ve installed one of those retractable microphones in my living room.

Let’s start small with some life essentials…


The “I Can Feed Myself Like a Big Girl” Badge

Fork and knife badge

I love to cook. Always have. When I was six, my specialty was this elaborate peanut butter and jelly that I made by checkering the pb AND j on to each piece of bread, and then folding the bread on to itself.  It took about three times as long as a normal sandwich, and tasted exactly the same, but it was fancy. When I moved out, I assumed my love of fancy food would mean that cooking for myself every night would be a joy. I learned this year that cooking is fun when it’s optional. It’s not that I no longer enjoy cooking, or that I never do. It’s just that I eat macaroni and cheese a lot more often than I’d like to admit. This badge is for excellence in Not Starving to Death.

This year I plan to earn the Eat Your Vegetables badge, the Sack Lunch badge, and the Noodles Don’t Have to be Shaped Like Disney Characters badge.


the “Dish Soap Should Not Be Named Ironically” badge


My main defense for not cooking for myself is that I don’t have a dishwasher. Basically, the better my meal tastes, the more time I get to spend in the kitchen after dinner, partying like it’s 1932 and my large Irish family is out in the fields gathering potatoes and I am the only one who can wash dishes because they all have severe allergies to to dish soap and we can’t loose another field-hand that way and so I must bear my cross with courage. Or I listen to audiobooks. Depends on the day.

This year, I plan to earn the “Hey Look, I Have Kitchen Counters” badge. Or maybe the “Give In and Buy a Portable Dishwasher” badge.


the “Riding Along in My Jaunting Car” badge

Oh Bunter. You're such a gentleman.

This was a particularly fun badge to earn. This summer, I bought my first car. Twenty-five might seem a bit old to be buying my first car, but I went to school/worked within the bounds of public transportation for five years. That’s my excuse. Anyway, my little blue Mini Cooper is named Bunter, after the gentleman’s gentleman in the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and he is my best friend. We have all sorts of adventures planned.

I have my eye on the “Extended Road Trip” badge, and the “I Hope I Don’t Have to But Perhaps I Could Learn to Do Something Like Change A Tire or Oil or I Could Just Vacuum His Floormats” badge.


the “It Sure is Character Building Outside” badge


I prefer winter. Make no mistake. It’s pretty. The nights are clear and crisp. There’s snow everywhere. I could survive in December/January for a good long time, thank you very much. However, this winter was particularly harsh. We had a blizzard that shut down most of the Midwest. I was given a day and a half off work because it was unsafe to go outside. I went to the grocery store at the last minute to buy rations, and ended up with a steak and half a dozen over-priced scented candles. (Ok. Grocery stores of America. If there’s going to be a blizzard, you stock candles. Not $15 vanilla scented ones. The ones that I can afford to burn to keep me from falling down my steep and terrifying steps. Thank you.) Bright side: I am still burning those lovely accent candles almost a year later.

Since this was no ordinary blizzard, I award myself a bonus badge for surviving a natural disaster that had a nickname. I will wear it with pride.

No seriously. Google "snowpocalypse". It's a thing.

Let’s see. This year I plan to earn the “Build a Snowman” badge, the “Don’t Forget to go to the German Christmas Market” badge, and the “Stifle Angry Faces at People Who Complain about Winter” badge.


the “Aspirational Green Thumb” badge

Aww, look. It's a little plant heart thing. Adorbs.

I decided that instead of putting myself through the emotional turmoil of naming a plant and then being sad when I killed it, I would name my flower pot. Sparky the flower pot has served me well all summer. To my surprise and delight, so has the plant I bought. I currently have two plants that are almost entirely alive, despite my best efforts.

This year, I plan to make up for the ranunculus I killed this spring by earning the “Kill Another Ranunculus Because I Never Learn” badge.


the “Customer Service Purgatory” badge


This is probably the most grown-up trial I’ve had to endure this year. I signed up for cable just as the new year rolled in. I spent at least three nights a week in January on the phone with AT&T trying to understand why they couldn’t help me. I was without Internet and in near despair. The AT&T reps were all very nice, and I could tell that they wanted to help. One spent a good ten minutes describing my problem using ship metaphors, which was all a giant build up to his grand conclusion: “It’ll be smooth sailing from here, ma’am.”

There was also a rep who promised to be my “Micky Mouse–no–my Mighty Mouse”. I wasn’t sure if I should hang up on him or not.

It wasn’t until Valentine’s Day night that a poor AT&T tech wandered around my neighborhood in the sleet, fielding calls from his angry wife, to find that AT&T had never wired my house for DSL. Many hearts were broken that day.

In the next year, I plan to earn the “Go Completely Off the Grid” badge. For at least 20 minutes guys, I promise.


the “Oh, I Finally Found the Candles” badge

Poor little incandescent light. It didn't even make it to see its own extinction.

I earned this badge in conjunction with my First Tornado Warning badge, but since it wasn’t an actual tornado, I didn’t know how to draw that. I guess I could have drawn the little fort I made in my creepy basement.

For three days in the middle of summer, I was without power and forced to entertain myself like they did in the olden days: by plugging my wireless router into the generator my landlord provided. Actually, for about twenty minutes I attempted to embroider by candlelight. Mostly so I could tweet about it. Really, the worst of this week was that I missed a doctorwhotime and my hair was a little flat for lack of hairdryer. I got over it. But cute band-aid on that light bulb, right?

This year I plan to achieve the “Appreciate Light Switches” badge. I did miss those guys that week.


the “DIY to Death” badge

Yep. I DIY'd myself to death. Except I think there's a name for that. And then this would be offensive. So let's go back to talking about paint. Hi mom.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I got all crafty this year. I’m not sure what hit me. All of a sudden I was buying embroider floss and making pillows and just generally doing all the its I could find. However, my apartment has become particularly cozy, so I’m going to say it’s worth it. Since Kate came and helped me do some re-arranging, I’ve had to flip a coin to decide which of my two rooms I’m going to spend my evening in. I love my little home, so I’ll gladly accept this badge.

I’m in the running for a “Cutify This More” badge, and a “Actually Learn How to Sew/Embroider/Cross-stitch” badge this time around.


the “Naturey-type” badge

They're such gentle looking little guys. I mean, when they're not disembodied tails.

This isn’t even a legitimate badge. I was just excited about it. I have skunks in my yard. I have never seen a real live skunk before. I grew up only 30 miles away, and we had all sorts of fauna in our yard (rabbits, deer, foxes, squirrels, coyotes, raccoons, small hoodlums), but never skunks. So when I surprised one in my yard one night, it was a major life event. Very few people were excited about this for me, so I’m giving it an official badge just to express my excitement.

Next year I plan to win the “Um…I Don’t Know…I Guess I’ve Always Wanted to See a Wolverine” badge.


Little key with "one year" on it.

So this is my basically my year in review. It’s been a good year. I’ve had to learn how to live by myself, which isn’t always easy. Because there’s no one around to off-set my strengths and weaknesses, I’ve learned a good bit about consequences. If I don’t make coffee, no one gets coffee. That’s rough. (On the other hand, there’s no one around to make bad coffee.)  I’ve learned that as introverted as I think I am, I still miss having people around. I’ve learned that I can keep myself pretty well entertained. I think I’ve also become a little more comfortable with myself, since I’m forced to be in my own company most of the time. Oh, and I laugh at all my own jokes. But that’s not really a new thing.

Overall, it’s been a good year, and I’m looking forward to the next.

This is the longest post I’ve ever written, so if you do actually get this far, leave a comment and I’ll make you the badge of your choice. You don’t get a ceremony, though. These shindigs are just once a year, like Christmas.  Or, if you don’t want a badge, you can still leave a comment and say hi. I think you’re pretty. 




    Your handwriting is so pretty 🙂

    I love your log of life…I wish I’d kept a similar log when I first moved out…I know I journaled, but nothing quite like this…this is epic. 🙂 I am going to go back and read some of them, because I am curious about Marianne from 3 years ago.

    The best thing? “I think I’ve also become a little more comfortable with myself, since I’m forced to be in my own company most of the time.” This was my goal in moving out. I was going to sit down and love myself; it was going to be me and my shoddily painted walls and I was going to start figuring out some of this life business and it was some of the greatest times of my life.

    Thanks for letting me be an audience member of your ceremony, and also thank you for letting me take part in some of these adventures in this last year. You are an inspiration and a fantastic run-through-the-city-and-marvel partner in crime! Also, your popcorn is beyond words.

  • I award you the “Entertaining Random Life Blog of the Year” badge.


  • I want the “I survived wound care even when the nurses hadn’t had coffee yet” badge, please! And this post rocks!

  • I’m pretty sure I did Awana for the little gold, silver, and bronze feathers. (Which apparently we had to pay for? Didn’t I pay with my blood, sweat, tears, and perfect recitation of hundreds of Bible verses?)

    I love your awards, especially your fabulous drawing skills. I’ve spent some time figuring out which one is my favorite. Is it the skunk tail? I’m not sure. (Skunks are cute in real life, right? From behind glass. When they’re a few feet away from you in the bushes at Magic Mountain, they somehow seem a lot more menacing.) Is it the phone in handcuffs? The jaunting car? It might be the jaunting car. 🙂

    This is clearly a cause for celebration and probably some delicious baked goods. You *do* have delicious baked goods, don’t you?

  • p.s.embroidery lessons? no joke. Get on this. The world needs you. My business cards need you.

  • I have my Awana trophies still, and I’m tempted to parade around with them…they’re so impressive :-)… Very fun blog – I loved it – I miss you here at MBI!

  • This is the most fun I’ve had reading in a while!

  • This was probably one of the most amusing blog posts I have ever read. Thank you for writing it. A mutual friend of ours posted this link, so I checked it out and I’m glad I did.

  • Okay. I just spent the last ten minutes giggling until Miles came over and I got to read my favorite excerpts to him. I think my favorite was the “Aspirational Green Thumb” badge, in which you named a pot. That’s really quite brilliant. I also enjoyed the illustrations immensely, especially the skunk tail. I’m so glad you did this, and I do hope it becomes an annual ceremony.

    Also, I would like to get a badge, please, because I’ve had enough life events recently to earn one. 🙂

  • Great post…Happy-living-through-your-first-year-on-your-own! If you’re still into awarding posters, I’ll take one for “Starting Two New Businesses and Actually Making Some Money” (my main accomplishment in the past year) – Be sure to let me know when Mr. Right appears so I can help with your big day plans…

  • ( I am whistling with 2 fingers in my mouth…the loud kind)
    I loved this and am going to share it. I think I like that dishwashing whilst fieldhands slave away award best.
    I think your theme song for your little nest should be “My Little Corner of the World”. I really like the version from Gilmore Girls but really Marie Osmond was the queen of that song.

    Did I miss the picture of the red carpet and your dress for this auspicious ceremony?

  • Jesse, you forgot the legendary Tuna Wiggle Casserole that you made all by yourself from your first cookbook when you were like, 7. Always a favorite. Hooray for surviving your first year! Remember when we were little and we would play camping, and you would always be the intrepid explorer who would scout out the path ahead? Not much has changed. 🙂

  • You make me want my own apartment which is stupid since it’s just John and me in this house.


  • Savored, as promised! (Please note it’s 3am EST. Oh, make that DST)

  • Outstanding! You ROCK, gurl!! (OK corny choice of words but, hey, it expresses how I feel!) <3

  • I love this. I am stealing this idea for future blog posts. With full credit to you, of course. 😀

    And I TOTALLY feel you on the no dishwasher front. It sucks. I did find that buying a pretty dish rack helped (it’s aqua! http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=386693&PseudoCat=se-xx-xx-xx.esn_results).

    And of course congratulations on surviving—nay—thriving your first year on your own. Do you feel like a real life grown up yet? ‘Cause I sure don’t.

  • Jesse, I loved this post. I now know that I’m not the only person who hates doing dishes. That part made me laugh so much. It reminded me of the almost 2 years I spent living on my own. I moved back home shortly after 9/11. I did move back out and got a roommate. Now that I have been married for almost 7 yrs. and have a toddler, I sometimes miss those days and wish there had been more of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and don’t wish them away. I just am a little regretful that I didn’t savor those times more fully. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • […] Last year, we covered a wide variety of grown up activities, including such diverse topics as Customer Service Purgatory and Baby, It’s Character Building Outside. This year, we have a full round of awards, but for the most part, they’re in different categories. (It’s like I’m growing as a human being or something.) […]

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