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Archive for May 23, 2013

How to Survive the Real World: Three Points of Advice

< by Jill >

My first week in the real world followed the script of most mini-series on Lifetime: it incorporated drama, loneliness, and fire, all while teaching a lesson about the kindness of strangers.

Based on this experience, I offer three points of advice to all the newly minted college graduates.

1. Talk to strangers.

With one Hyundai Elantra GT and two scrawny arms, I hauled and moved every item I owned into my first apartment, a third-floor walk-up on Chicago’s south side. Right before fetching my very last box, I bumped my apartment door shut and realized—concurrently with the sound of CLICK—that I had locked myself out. I sat on the floor and cried. I stayed there for two hours. I had no phone, no keys, no way to tell the world that I was alone on the south side, locked out of my apartment. Finally, I got up the gumption to knock on doors. Three doors later, a middle-aged black woman named Shirley invited me in. She gave me peach yogurt and took care of everything. She called the landlord, contacted a locksmith, and let me stay in her home until someone came to help. From time to time, she visited my home and I learned that strangers are often the kindest folks around.

2. When in doubt, turn to Google.

My first night in my south-side apartment, I heard a persistent shuffling sound. I laid in bed, wide awake, squinting my ears to refine the sound and source it out. Finally, I flicked the light switch and identified the culprit: cockroaches. The next morning, I hit up the local CVS for a can of Raid, but after reading the warning label (death! skulls!), I returned it to the shelf. One Google search later, I learned that I could manage the pests with natural borax.

3. If you’re short, leave the top shelves empty.

My first real-world kitchen had a gas stove. A small, two-door cabinet hovered above this stove, tempting me with its storage capacities. But being short and without any chairs, I had no choice but to stand on my tip-toes, on a stack of books, and teeter-totter to reach my baking supplies. One evening, while performing such acrobatics, I leaned too heavily onto the stove’s gear panel and lit up a burner. Startled, I fell off my perch and brought a sack of powdered sugar with me. The sugar burst into flames. By the time I controlled the fire, I had burnt, caramelized sugar and plastic melted all over the stove. I left the cabinet empty thereafter.