1. Don’t check yourself into the psych ward if you still have dirty dishes in the sink. You’ll come back 48 hours later with a crusty layer of dried chicken on your hand-me-down plate. But by then, it won’t be your mess to deal with; your sister has volunteered to do the dishes.
    1. Do your dishes every night. Or, at the very least, rinse them off after use. Don’t let more than two days worth sit in the sink at a time.
  2. Get a dog that barks at every little noise: the neighbors coming home, the dog next door going out to pee, her stomach growling. With each bark, get a little more stressed because you’re afraid they’re going to kick you out.
    1. Being on your own is understandably nerve-wracking, especially if you’re used to living with a bunch of other people. Sometimes, getting a pet can help with the loneliness. As for the random noises that you’ll hear, I promise you’ll get used to them over time.
  3. Have a dinner party: invite your family over the first night you start cooking for yourself again after coming back from the hospital. The first night doesn’t count because you burned yourself on hamburger grease. You’re too depressed to clean the apartment, but your mom and sister do it for you.
    1. Tidy up a little bit every day: pick the clothes up off the floor, put the clean dishes away, vacuum. A little bit goes a long way.
  4. Avoid getting the mail because you know there are going to be bills in it and you haven’t checked your bank account in two weeks because you’ve been on personal health leave. You’re pretty sure you’ve bought too many milkshakes.
    1. Have a budget going in. Figure out how much money you make in a month, and then subtract all the possible expenses: rent, utilities, car insurance, gas, anything that could possibly come up. This will tell you how much you can afford to spend on extra things.
  5. Call your dad in a panic because you forgot to get chicken out to thaw, and now your dinner plans are ruined. Or, even worse, realize you have nothing in the fridge.
    1. Meal plan. Block Friday nights out to plan out the meals for the coming week, and make a grocery list. Go shopping on Saturday. Post the meal plan on your fridge so as you’re getting ready in the morning you can see what needs to be thawing or what prep needs to be done the night before.
  6. Binge watch all your favorite shows because the loneliness and boredom are starting to get to you.
    1. Challenge yourself by learning something new. Pick up a new hobby; read interesting books about topics you don’t know much about. I’ve started doing yoga, which is interesting when you have a dog that wants to lick your face all the time.
  7. The day you move in, meet Fred, the neighbor upstairs. He tells you that you’ve parked in the wrong spot. Later that day, meet Lee, the neighbor next door who says “Fred thinks he’s the god of all women.” She has a dog named Ivy, a Pekingese; your dog does not like Ivy. Meet Tyler and Dana; they live upstairs and have a poodle who likes to play catch at 8pm.
    1. Meet the neighbors, especially the ones who’ve been there a while. They know the neighborhood and can give you tips about the apartment: they only plow when the cars are gone, garbage pickup is on Wednesdays, this is the quiet building. I mean, who else are you going to borrow sugar from?
  8. Don’t be like me and go to the ER at the beginning of the health insurance year; plan for the end of the year after the deductible has been reached. It’s cheaper that way.
    1. Have an emergency fund that you can tap into when unplanned expenses come up: car repairs, hospital visits, vet bills.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but I am exhausted and want to go to bed. So this is part one. More parts will be added as I continue to figure life out. Right now, I’m just grateful to be alive.

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