Moving Out On Your Own
November 6th, 2013
by Alva Gardner
Originally, I was going to write one piece on apartment life and the independence considerations that go along with it. But as I was writing, I realized that I couldn’t do justice to all the things that I want to share with you in one post. Therefore, I am going to split independent living and apartment logistics into two different posts. I will also do my best to post “Part Two” in the next week or so, instead of waiting until the end of the month.
As I sit in my apartment writing this, I can’t help but remember a time when I thought I would live at home forever. As a little girl I would constantly tell Mom of my plans to live in our house with her for my entire life, believing full well that this was not only possible, but realistic. This determination to stay in my home was routed in a childhood fantasy to have life as I knew it remain static; one that stemmed from a deeper self-doubt of my ability to live independently. Being away from Mom for short times was not foreign to me by the age of 18. Adventures away from home, coupled with Mom’s continuous grooming for and warnings of my inevitable departure for college, should have smoothed my transition to dorm life. To some extent, they did. But the truth is that nothing could have fully prepared me for the challenges that arose when I moved into my freshman year dorm and began my journey in independent living. I quickly learned that there are certain things that come up in new situations, which you can’t prepare for ahead of time. There are aspects of day-to-day life (that are different for each person with a disability) that differ based on type of living environment.
When I first moved into my freshman dorm, I had so many thoughts, questions, and fears running through my head. How would I get all my meals taken care of? How would I find, let alone manage, all of my personal attendants? What would happen if one of my attendants didn’t show up for a shift? What if I had one of my dizzy, nauseous spells in the middle of the night? To be honest, these questions arise for me at every living transition, and most of them take a new round of figuring out in each new location. The key, basic element to developing a system that works you is to be really honest with yourself about your abilities and what you might need a little help or adaptations to be able to do more efficiently or effectively. A lot of this determination affects, and is affected by, if and how one uses attendants.
I believe that moving from dorm to co-op to apartment life allowed for an effective, gradual entry into the realities of independent living. College dorms were a safe, structured place that had safety nets already in place to facilitate a smooth transition to independent living; resident assistants, dining halls, and fully accessible units allowed me to learn independent living skills that I have carried with me to other living environments. One of the most important skills, crucial to anyone with a physical disabilities’ living on their own, that I developed in Cal’s dorms was how to work with personal care attendants. Now, I believe that there’s more on this topic than I can do justice here. Look for my post on apartment logistics and personal attendants in mid-November.
The important thing to think about with independent living is what YOU want out of your life and how YOU feel comfortable getting it!