What it means to “adult” as a child


Courtesy Photo Aysha Carlin

When I move to Portland, I know that budgeting time for my nephew, Ace, will be one of my top priorities.

It always surfaces. That dreaded question all seniors—past, present (and even future)—are constantly harassed with. Moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, and those in desperate need of a conversation starter always look at you, straight in the eyes, and ask: “What are your plans after high school?” Sure, seems harmless enough, yet that question holds much more weight to Sheridan High School students than people realize. As graduation approaches, we are constantly churning our every thought with versions of the same question, desperately trying to figure out: Where am I going to live?  How will I make an income? What is a W4? Do I HAVE to pay taxes? Should I buy a dog—what about a cat?
In more simple terms: What does it actually mean to ‘adult?’ Can I do it?
On Friday, March 25, 2016 I embarked on a journey to Portland, Ore. to start connecting dots for my soon-to-be future. During my trip, I learned valuable lessons about myself, city life, what it means to be relied on, and understanding what it is to be a hard worker and good roommate. In four short days, I packed an overload of experience and information into my inexperienced, small-town-girl brain while staying conscious of the fact that I still have much more to learn. This was only a tiny taste of what adulting entails.
It all began Monday, March 28. My future roommate and I set out on our first adult mission— apartment hunting. Months before our trip even began, we scheduled walk-throughs around the Portland area including, but not limited to, Canby, Beaverton, Hilsboro and Wilsonville. Being prepared ahead of time is a good first step to being an adult.
As we searched through amazing to not-so-great apartments, we continued to maintain the hopeful, respectful and mature persona important for the circumstances (you don’t want to appear too eager nor do you want to appear manipulative). In fact, the lady at the most impressive apartment complex was taken completely off guard during our tour when I mentioned that I had to wait until after graduation to move—so no, I couldn’t move in next week to ensure a spot. “What are you majoring in?” she asked (assuming I was speaking about a university). The responses that come out of strangers mouths when they hear you are freshly 18 is pretty rewarding. It is also a sign you are already getting the hang of adulating: hold yourself to a higher expectation that what is expected of you.
Now back to the task of apartment hunting. When searching for an apartment, I found that a good rule of thumb is to predetermine and discuss with yourself and future roommate(s) what you expect from an apartment—they all have their pros and cons. Sort priorities. For us, it was a washer and dryer (in-unit), a safe neighborhood location, and natural light—Oregon is known for rain, so why live in a dark apartment to add to the lack of vitamin D? You have to be open and honest with your future roommate, and stand strong on what you need while also respecting what they need. If you already have drama, re-evaluate compatibility. Remember, pros and cons. It is all part of adulting.
It seemed we did a good job picking out apartments from online to tour (aside from one). Our focus was to find an apartment in our price range and to look into whether or not it seemed safe and clean. Then we would send out our information via email or phone to let them know that we were interested, when we wanted to tour, and how many of us there was going to be.
Tours are all relatively the same process: you arrive in the leasing office, they discuss with you which layouts you are hoping for, then the leasing agent opens a fridge and acts amazed that it’s stocked with all types of beverages, then offers you one. Next, they take your drivers license (to ensure their safety while taking non-screened people to apartments alone) and head out to a model and/or vacant apartment, allowing you to get a better understanding of the size, quality, and other amenities the apartment has to offer. Word of advice: never just trust online photos.
It is wise to look before you commit. We definitely ran into the occasional not-so-great apartment even after searching the web as thoroughly as possible—in fact, speaking of webs, one apartment we checked out was filled with actual webs and spiders—the landlord literally slapped them down right in front of us as if it were no biggie. So seriously, do not just make big decisions based on online photos.
One other appointment we scheduled a month in advance went a bit strange. It was in Oregon City, and when we showed up the leasing consultants uncomfortably glanced at each other then told us they had rented out their last showable apartment a week before our arrival. With that, the leasing office manager decided to show us her own personal, disorganized apartment; and I found myself not knowing whether to ask questions about the complex or compliment her curtain choice. I quickly learned that even some adults fail at adulting.
After surviving the exclusive tour of her apartment, she took us to the fitness center listed in the amenities on their website. Their workout room was more of a workout shack. After attempting to open the door the first time, she failed miserably because the door was stuck against the noticeably warped wood floor yet cursed at her key instead. The price was right…but everything else…was not.
If apartment hunting isn’t hard enough, you also have to be familiar with the change of a new place. When moving states, it’s important to be aware of the state’s different social etiquette and laws. For example, in the state of Oregon, it is illegal to pump your own gas for your car. When you arrive at the gas station you roll down your window, hand the gas jockey your money, tell them how much to fill, and select the gas you would prefer. Gas jockeys are beneficial for the state by opening more job opportunities for others, but for out-of-staters like myself, it is something that was strange to get used to.
Portland is such a large city with so many different interstates, the easiest thing you can do is get lost. This is why it is always important to be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to landmarks and directions because you’ll never know when all of a sudden you don’t know where you are anymore. While driving in the hectic streets of Beaverton and downtown, I learned to be patient, cautious, and always pay attention because you never know what another driver is planning.

My Opi (grandfather) always taught me to “live below [my] means.” When he says this, he means that even after all bills are paid, be sure you have worked hard enough to have money left to save and/or invest. Being prepared for the unexpected is always beneficial because the unexpected frequently happens when you are least expecting it. Having money saved before a big move out of a city or state can definitely have its benefits and continuing to save money after the move in case of emergencies or for your future helps ease already jittery nerves.
When I think of being an adult, the first word that comes to mind is budgeting, budgeting time for friends, family, work, entertainment, and yourself. Budgeting money for expenses includes rent, groceries, transportation, entertainment, utilities, and much more. Being responsible for your time, self, and money is truly the heart of “adulting.”

So what does it mean to adult?

The answer, in my short but impactful experience, is that we won’t know until we are doing it.

The view from a two bedroom, two bath, top floor Waterhouse Place apartment.
Photo Bailey Carlin
The view from a two bedroom, two bath, top floor Waterhouse Place apartment.
Terrene at the Grove exhibits natural light and was fully equipped wit a washer and dryer in unit while in a safe neighborhood.
Courtesy Photo terreneliving.com
Terrene at the Grove exhibits natural light and was fully equipped wit a washer and dryer in unit while in a safe neighborhood.