Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On Adulthood and Independence

Random fact of the day: I don't like tea. I've tried. My most recent endeavor was this weekend. Determined to find something warm to drink (because I've been battling a cold) that wasn't high in sugar (apple juice/cider) or dairy (milk = mucus = gross), I convinced myself I would just have to learn to love tea. So I bought a small box of assorted herbal teas. Three flavors later, I'm still not a convert. Gag. Me.

Hearing aids: I recently met a girl who's in my small group at church and who happens to live in the same apartment complex. She's also a speech therapist and as a product of years (or what feels like years, anyway) of speech therapy myself, we had a lot of common ground and I like to think we bonded. Anyway, all that to say - speech therapy. I'd be the first to say I hated it at the time and also the first to say how thankful I am I did it. I don't know how long I did it, but it was a pretty regular experience in elementary school. I would visit the school speech therapist for I don't really know how often a week but we would go over vocabulary and speech sounds. I had problems with the "sss" sound. We practiced over and over and over and over and over again. My speech therapist, Karen, had to tell me constantly that I had to put my front teeth behind my bottom teeth in order to "sss" appropriately. WHATEVER. But to this day, I'm very intentional about my teeth placement!

In other news: I've been thinking about adulthood/independence and what got me fired up was Boundless. I used to read it pretty regularly in high school/college but over the last couple of years, I've tapered off. It's Focus on the Family's answer to young adults (18-40), I guess. Anywhozzle, I feel like I have a love/hate relationship with Boundless. On one hand, I appreciate the community of young adults coming together - single, married, whatever - and since they regularly refer to people I respect, like Josh Harris, CJ Mahaney and John Piper, I figure they can't be too bad.

But at the same time, sometimes I feel like there's something missing. Like what they say is well thought out and logical and good, but seems to be missing the point, namely Christ. I feel like calling them legalistic would be too strong - their articles encourage readers to be wise and have a Scripture-centered view of things, which is well and good, but seem to put a lot of emphasis on US and OUR decision making, and less on the person of Christ and who He is and what He's done.

Anyway, they had several articles about whether to live alone or with people. This one girl in particular wrote an article that I'm having a hard time with. She's 25, the oldest of 12 and has chosen to keep living at home. Then there's me, who at almost 27, has chosen to live alone. I haven't made that decision lightly and frankly, this article and others on Boundless made me rethink for a while whether it was wise to live alone.

Here's a basic summary of some of her points:

Living at home is good training for the "real world," interacting with others daily and being flexible with your time. Living alone promotes independence, which is really self-centeredness, and an increasing inability to be flexible.

Living at home affords protection. As a single woman, she doesn't have to worry about being afraid walking from her car to her house because most likely, her dad is still awake and in the dining room. When it comes to dating, her dad and brothers offer a protection - where she may not see past a guy's charm, her dad and brothers can.

Living at home increases financial responsibility. She was able to start a career as a freelance writer without fretting over rent and saved up enough money to buy her own laptop. Now she pays her parents the same amount she would in rent and hopes to have enough saved to buy her own van - cash.

Living at home affords more opportunities to engage as part of a community and more opportunities to serve.

MMMMMMMMMMK. I agree with several of these on paper, especially the part about independence, being part of a community and having opportunities to serve. But let's break it down, shall we?

Yes, living alone has made it easier for me to focus on myself and not in a good way. I have to work harder to be part of a community and seek out ways to serve. Yet I'm not convinced this is an entirely terrible thing for an introvert such as myself. It means I see more quickly and clearly the drawbacks of not being in a community or serving and I have to work harder to take part of those things. I've lived with roommates before and honestly, that just discouraged me from doing much outside of my house because I expected my roommates to fill those needs (which was wrong of me but the point is that living with people doesn't necessarily ensure community) - which they didn't because they couldn't - unlike me, they worked to have lives outside of our dorm room/house, whereas I, the Homebody, was content to have my community happen within the four walls of my abode.

Yes, living at home or with roommates does offer a certain protection. I know I feel safer when I live with people, but I also lose an opportunity to trust God and only God (not my dad or my roommates or the police) for my protection. Living alone has actually exposed my idol of safety and led me to my knees to ask forgiveness and learn how to lean on God alone. It's harder to do that when I live with people. As for the protection in dating aspect - I don't really have a response to that. I've never even dated, so what do I know? But I would think/hope that a) I'm mature enough to think for myself and seek the Lord's wisdom and guidance before and during a dating relationship and b) just because I don't live at home doesn't mean I wouldn't ask for my parents' and brothers' perspective.

As for financial responsibility, I admire the author for being so disciplined with her money, for being able to buy a car - cash, no less! - and buy her own laptop. I guess I can't really argue with that, but for me, I'm not sure I would have learned to be financially independent if I hadn't left home. Being held accountable to banks (which can penalize you) and landlords is a much harsher kick in the butt than being accountable to my parents. But I think the financial responsibility argument would vary from person to person.

Honestly, I read that article yesterday with a little bit of contempt. Isn't that awful?! I just kept thinking that maybe I was a little bit better than her because I don't live with my parents anymore and I know how to do things that she doesn't so there. :p Along that same vein, I was working on my taxes the other night and as much as I hate math and numbers and decimals and calculators, I was a little proud. Not proud of myself, but puffed up. I know several young women who have someone else do their taxes (their dads or husbands) and I sometimes feel like I'm just a little more grown up for doing them myself. Yes, awful! (But the truth is, I'm envious of those of you who have someone to do their taxes! ;))

And I do pride myself on being independent. I have a full time job. I pay my rent on time. I usually forget to pay my insurance on time (oops) BUT I've built a good rapport with my insurance agent and it always works out. I buy my own groceries and plan my own meals. I decorate my apartment my way and I have my own vacuum cleaner (I felt that was important to note for some reason). When I get back home from the store, I bring all the bags in by myself and if I'm sick, I take care of myself. Clearly, I don't need a man. I may or may not be a closet feminist. Hm.

But then I think - where exactly is this pride coming from? Why is it so important to be independent and on my own? Why do I look down on people who don't do their own taxes or who still live with their parents? Why does it matter? There's nothing in Scripture that says that independence is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Christ doesn't commend us for being on our own. On the contrary, the Word is all about dependence on Christ and living in community and that we weren't made to be alone.

I can think of a bunch of excuses - from wanting to be my own person to proving I'm capable - but they all fly away in the face of Christ. None of that really matters before the Lord. But the thing is, I do feel okay in Christ to live alone. I don't feel like I'm in sin for not having a roommate or for not moving back home. I don't think I'm wrong for wanting to think for myself and to be my own person apart from my family. And really, because we live in a fallen world, there's never going to be a perfect situation. There are good things and bad things about living at home when you're 25. There are good and bad things about living on your own at (almost) 27. There's no one scenario that pleases God more than the other - what matters is the motivation behind it.

And my motivation for living alone? There are several, but the bottom line is that I'm exhausted. I spend all day long - ALL DAY - working, working, working. I'm not talking about my job where I get a paycheck. I work all day to listen with my eyes, to try and figure out who said what and what they're talking about and who is talking now and what was that noise and carrying on conversations that I may or may not have understood. It's exhausting. And to come home to MORE of that at the end of the day would fry my brain. So for now, it's a refuge for me to come home to silence. To just lay on the couch and watch TV (yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, captions!) and not have to work so dang hard.

And in a lot of ways, I feel more free to be myself. I love to have people over and cook for them. That's hard to do when you live with others. I don't feel as free to ask a friend over when I have to share the kitchen with three other people. I can't practice hospitality as well if I have to worry about whether my very long conversation with my guest in the living room is inconveniencing my roommates. Living alone frees me to better practice hospitality. I'm less distracted by roommates which frees me to blog more or delve into Scripture deeper. I don't feel so self-conscious about trying (and burning) new recipes. Without roommates around, I have more incentive to get out and meet new people (still working on this one!). In short, I'm more free to be an adult when I live alone than when I live with people.

Yes, marriage could be the exception. I have nothing of worth to contribute to that scenario as I'm not married nor do I have any prospects. This is just my (almost) 27-year-old perspective on adulthood. Subject to change at any time. ;)

If you made it this far, I salute you!

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