For all the privileged, foolish young ones who consistently exclaim: "I can't wait to move out!"--here is a little reality check that you may not have it quite so bad.
It's kind of like living in a hotel. You're not wary of your bedspread, because hopefully you know where it's been, but it does cross your mind as you shower or pull something out of the oven. The ew factor is then irreversible. Involuntary, you might find yourself picturing a big, fat, sweaty gorilla-man scratching his hairy back as he soaks in a bubble bath. Did Gorilla-Man live there just before us? There's no way to know. And no amount of bleaching and/or disinfecting will remove that image from your brain.
If you're a pack rat like I am, then you probably have horded cherished items--from childhood trophies to those clothing items you'll never wear but refuse to get rid of for fear that they will come in handy one day. Once you move in, however, and you get to the point where you have to wade through knee-deep piles of notes your friends wrote you in middle school and old stuffed animals, something inside you will die--the desire to keep any of it. And the hard fact is that abandoning these mementos is a lot more constructive and practical than inventing a rope and pulley system attached to a row boat that will move you from room to room while suspended in the air. Believe me. I drew up the blueprints.
The thing is, your neighbors' sounds are magnified. That means yours are, too. Sometimes it seems like you hear everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Now, avoiding worse illustrations, I will just say that sometimes you may decide to sleep in. What could go wrong? Well, someone near you is bound to have kids. They like to get up early and stomp around the apartment, maybe watch an extremely loud cartoon. Sometimes it even sounds like they are strangling small, adorable woodland creatures. Those are fun sounds to wake up to. Except...not.
Here's the fact: When you first move out, unless you're pampered and/or somehow wealthy, you will not be able to afford living on your own in a decent apartment. That means that you will require roommates, and with them comes a whole host of problems and/or issues. Sometimes, your very life might be endangered by the milk monster. The milk monster appears when someone has left half-eaten cereal laying around long enough for it to mutate and develop a bloodlust. If you left it there yourself, you'd at least have warning. But when a roommate is present, you never know when they will unwittingly unleash this particular beast. It may attack suddenly when you're watching a movie, emerging from under the couch with its foul odor and jiggling while it sits back on its chunky, moldy haunches. It is frightening.
Then there's the decorating issue. Do we want old lady or rock n' roll? Rock n' roll seems juvenile to some, but no decor seems hospital-like and depressing to others...so where do you compromise? Then, of course, there's a lack of privacy not quite as serious as the one in your parents' house, but not quite as nonexistent as you imagined it would be. Along with other problems comes the inexplicable disappearance of things you have bought, the indiscriminate amounts of garbage that will accumulate, and the fact that there's no set chore arrangement. All of those things will cause you to have to bite the bullet and do everything once in awhile. Also, you can't just do whatever you want. You have to consider them as well. Goodbye, parties. Goodbye naked Tuesdays. You never know when someone will arrive with a guest. And I've found it's best to not be prancing around pantsless on those occasions.
While this may seem like an upside or a much-desired amenity, it is not. The pool in an apartment complex is there for one reason: to torture you. It looks so refreshing and inviting. You'll drive by on your way in from work and think: "Oh, a swim sounds great right now!" Then you'll get in your bathing suit, pack up your tanning oil and rubber duckies--maybe even invite a friend and bring some tunes. You'll arrive and for a few minutes, it's like your own VIP room.
That is, until every single resident comes with their screaming children. Said spawn of Satan will squirt you with their waterguns, scream at the top of their lungs, and invade your personal space. The parents will do nothing about any of these things.
Next come the gawkers. These are those guys with the tattoos of barbed wire and praying hands, usually, although every once in awhile it'll be a teen father with his pregnant girlfriend. They will unabashedly stare until you feel it is necessary to get some sort of parka in order to feel at all clothed. If you can brave those parts of the would-be oasis, you will eventually get overheated. At that time the water becomes very appealing. You will get up, walk through the gauntlet of bug-eyed jerks and kids fighting over toys, and wade in the cool blue--oh, but wait. It's NOT cool! It's practically lukewarm! Maybe it's from all the kiddie pee. Maybe it's from the collective heat generated by all the rednecks' sunburn. You don't know, you don't care, you just realize it's time to go back to the apartment and shower vigorously.
I know. It sounds unlikely now. But once they're out of your face, you'll actually want to go spend some time with them. And you can no longer use the excuse "But I'm with you all the time! I live with you!" when they complain they never see you. The upside of this is that your parents will miss you too. Gifts and homecooked meals will probably ensue. But then there's that part of you (not the starving, lonely college student part) that will have affronted pride. You want to be independent. You want to take care of yourself! So what if you can't afford groceries or toilet paper! You will rough it! But....you won't. Which brings me to my next pitfall...
Unless you can find roommates who have no problem living in a hellhole that's nothing but a glorified rodent trap, you will have some hefty expenses. Living on your own is anything but cheap. There's the rent; and sure, you could fit that in your budget. But then comes utilities, groceries, losing your security deposit because you busted through a wall while fighting the milk monster--it adds up. And then your friends hate you because you're that lame guy who can't afford to go do anything fun, so constantly invites the friends over to your "awesome apartment," where you can't offer them any food but microwave popcorn and the only thing to do is watch the 3 movies in your DVD collection that everyone has already seen a hundred times. "But we can look up shows online or watch YouTube videos!" you're foolishly retorting right about now. Yeah...except when the budget allows for either soap/toothpaste/meals/toilet paper or Comcast's crazy expensive high-speed wifi, you WILL choose the former and not the latter.
And now down to the first one. It may not seem like a big deal, but it really does encompass all the others in a way.
You will find that it is more likely for you to get struck by lightning than actually be able to park in front of your own dwelling. Why is this? Your noisy, drunken, high school drop-out neighbors. Sure, they share a vehicle. They don't take up much room during the day. But once 6pm rolls around, all bets are off. Your parking lot will be packed to the brim with all of their crazy friends and acquaintances. You will have to park approximately 87 miles away and hike uphill to get home. It's important to bring snacks so you don't starve on the trek. You should also probably bring blinders and/or an invisibility cloak because those parking spot thieves will become human litter in your path. They'll stumble around outside with beer cans and cigarettes, laughing all the while. You'll hope that they'll all be wearing pants, but every time you'll know in your heart that won't be the case.
Some of them, when you drive up, will be sitting in their cars as if they're about to leave. Don't fall for it! They're just teasing you. They will stare blankly at you as you patiently wait for them to move out of your parking place. On a Saturday, you're good-natured. You think, eh, it's the weekend. Let them have their fun. But then you'll get home from a long day of classes and work on Monday and briefly consider a shooting spree because they will be there once again. The strangest part about it is that neither you nor your roommates can seem to figure out what apartment these losers live in, no matter how vigilant you are. You will consider planning a stake-out so that you can get your vengeance. But since it's an apartment, the worst you could really do is egg and toilet paper their door. Then again, there's always the flaming bag of poop.
How does this encompass all the others, you ask?
8: Former tenants: What did Gorilla Man do when the rednecks took his parking space? He probably just got more sweaty/dirty and rubbed his filth on all the bathroom surfaces--maybe even masturbated angrily while listening to some Metallica.
7: Lack of storage space: Before you realize how important it is to downsize your knick-knack collection, you will have to lug all that crap uphill.
6: Noises: Do you have any idea how loud drunken idiots in your parking lot can be?
5: Roommates: After hiking uphill for 15 minutes to get to the apartment, they will be disinclined to lend you any kind words or help. God forbid the toilet paper roll be empty after you've taken a dump. They will be in no mood/physical condition to throw you some.
4: The pool: The same d-bags who populate the parking lot are the ones who take up all available space at the pool. The actual tenants will bring every person they know who fits in the parents with horribly misbehaved children/gawker category.
3: Missing your parents: Remember how good you had it at your mom and dad's house? They had a driveway. Maybe even a garage. And no redneck ever violated the sanctity of another man's garage.
2: Being poor all the time: You can't even afford to waste a dozen eggs to throw at your neighbor. You can't buy a very powerful bebe gun to shoot them with. And you certainly can't afford to put their drunken asses in rehab.
See? It all comes together. Stay home. At least until you're too old for it to be acceptable.