“Adulting” is a term that has materialized in popular culture to describe doing tasks typical of a responsible, independent adult. Examples include paying bills, buying groceries, doing taxes, and many more exciting things that are part of an adult’s daily life. I am a 17-year-old senior in high school and I am quite proud of myself for succeeding at “adulting.”
A few months ago, I moved from a foster home into an independent living program called Real Alternatives for Adolescents (RAFA). Under this program, I live with a roommate in a two-bedroom apartment. I receive monthly stipends for food and living needs, but aside from that I am completely responsible for myself.
I really enjoy the freedom and autonomy the program allows me. After all, isn’t every high schooler’s dream to have no parents, to be able to do whatever they want? I finally feel like my own person, free of the intense emotional stress that foster care put me under. However, freedom comes with a few sacrifices, and a few new stressors to worry about.
First of all, I have spent more time cleaning things than I ever have before in my life. Dishes, laundry, floors, the kitchen, and the bathroom; sometimes it seems never-ending. I was pretty surprised when I realized that I had to buy cleaning products and even toilet paper with my own money, because it was something that had never been an expense for me before.
The feeling of being alone without a family or parents can be pretty tough sometimes too. It can feel like there’s no one I can go to when I need support with important things, like making my college decision. There was no one to help me with my college applications, essays, or FAFSA. However, I appreciate that I can make decisions without pressure or influence from parents who might want a different path for me than the one I want to take. I’m doing things independently, for myself, and not to please my parents.
Another difficult aspect of my new life is managing stress and my busy schedule. I’m a full time student, musician, and athlete. When I first moved into RAFA, I didn’t have my license yet, and it was nearly impossible to get myself everywhere I needed to be. I was constantly disappointed in my inability to fulfill my commitments. Now that I do have my license, I still can’t get places on time because of every adult’s favorite thing to complain about: traffic.
In the end, I’m very thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to be in the RAFA program. Being able to be my own person, away from the moral degradation and emotional abuses of the foster care system, has really helped me in my personal growth. The independent living skills that I am learning are also better preparing me for life in college. I plan to stay in RAFA for the summer and will move to attend Stanford University in the fall.