A year ago I got offered my dream job in Blantyre - a city that is 300 kilometers away from my mother's house, give or take. I've lived in Blantyre before, when I was an undergrad in college, but at the time I stayed in a hostel with other people or at close friends' houses. In fact all my life I've lived with other people. This was the first time I was ever going to live by myself in a space that was entirely my own with my own resources.
Saying it's been hard is an understatement. Not only did I move with no household belongings and no money in my account (the job seriously took me by surprise and I just sorta upped and left) but I was not prepared for how expensive furniture, groceries and bills would be. I was also not prepared for the gut-wrenching loneliness that would double me over (re: first time I've ever lived alone). Still I managed to somehow find my feet and make it work for 365 days, so here's 19 pieces of advice I'd give my younger self if she ever found a time machine and wanted a few tips.
1. When your mother tells you you haven't carried enough curtains for your house, listen to her. Even if she's never stepped foot in it. Even if she doesn't know the dimensions of the windows. She's right. You don't have enough curtains. And if you're lucky enough for her to come by the next week, allow her to bring more curtains and hug her real tight when you knock off from work and she's draped all your windows perfectly.
2. The minute you notice your ceiling is leaking during a cyclone warning call your land lady despite your anxiety. Proceed to brush the water out of your living room because mopping will be a waste of time.
3. It's okay to ask for help from your best friend of seventeen years when you need a big loan, even if in all those seventeen years you've never borrowed money from her. She's your best friend, and she will help.
4. In fact, despite your hyper independency, ask and accept help anywhere you can get in those first few months. Allow help you never thought you'd need. Say yes to handouts from family and accept coffee dates from friends who can see you're struggling. Take a few loans. It's fine.
5. Cry a lot when it gets too hard or lonely.
6. You can buy yourself two hot dogs before nine o'clock because you don't have a stove yet and you're starving and it's cheap.
7. Despite all the bad things happening, look in the mirror and remind yourself you're not cursed. It's all just coincidence and bad timing. Proceed to sprinkle the house with holy water after. For good measure.
8. Sleep a lot when it gets hard or lonely.
9. There are some mistakes you will make that your mother doesn't need to know. You can tell her later or not at all.
10. It's okay to feel sad when some people you thought were your close friends aren't interested to see your house, especially when you just move in. It's okay to re-evaluate your position in their lives. It's okay to continue being their friend despite your reservations.
11. Get an unconventional pet... Like fish. Get fish.
12. If you're getting furniture made (which you should), always ask for two separate quotations. One for materials. One for labour. If you can, get the quotation for materials on your own. The initial deposit should always be at most 90% for the materials. That way if they deliver something you don't want, you have bargaining power. You might not win. But at least you can take pleasure that you both lose.
13. Take before and after pictures of your space.
14. If you can afford to, make your house as comfortable as you'd like. Even if it's a rented space, you still have to spend a godforsaken amount of time in it.
15. On the same note, your priorities are your priorities. Despite what other people say, you can put affordable flooring, and it's absolutely okay to want to buy a whole set of plates and pots instead of one of each as other people suggest. You can do whatever you want within reason. It's your money. It's your home.
16. Swallow your embarrassment those first few months. Invite people over.
17. Be prepared for the emotional overwhelment you will feel when people admire and/or are proud of the progress you've made.
18. Call your mom often.
19. It's your house. Feel free to walk around it stark naked. Just keep the curtains closed.