“On my own”: Those three simple words, create a phrase filled with a lot of excitement and uncertainty.
It is a well-known phrase, mainly used when going off to college or snagging that first home to rent or buy. That is when it all changes—the rules, the place, the people, and so much more.
When it comes to adulthood, it all tends to be inevitable. And yet, for adults with autism, such a transition can be very difficult, if not outright impossible. However, as one of these adults, I have managed to do so, and it has been a terrific (and trying) experience. It is also one that I would like you all to understand. Not only that, but I want to inspire anyone on the spectrum reading my words and thinking of doing what I have done. That is why, for this article, I will explain what it is like living by myself, and I’ll also get into what I’ve learned with helpful tips for you all to read.
Let me say this right off the bat: Living on my own has been different. Very, very different. Even when I had been living with my parents, I knew that finding my own place and being independent would be unique and intimidating. However, I only knew this intellectually, so the moment I found and moved into my own place to rent (with roommates, I might add), everything felt unique and intimidating as well. Of course, my newfound freedom made things plenty exciting, but for a while there was rarely a moment when I did not feel confused and overwhelmed. I had only moved a few miles south of my parents, but I nonetheless had so much to consider. My commute, new expenses, the fear of failure. These things among many I faced, for I reached a level of autonomy I had yet to truly fathom. One day, everything was familiar, and the next it was anything but; it felt like a dream at times. However, I knew that life would always be what I made it, so I was determined to succeed. On the other hand, I was not always determined; there were times when I wanted to throw in the proverbial towel. I had to be a lot more careful and responsible. I cooked more meals. I ran more errands. I tried, with mixed results, to keep my living space organized. I went through trial and error, with a lot of the latter that only time and effort corrected. My old routine was long gone; I had to roll with the proverbial punches, and there were many. For example, all three of my jobs were farther away when I moved, so I needed to find the best route to take in order to make it on time. However, since these new routes were still longer than my old ones, I also had to get up earlier to avoid the traffic. Sometimes I made a wrong turn or missed an exit, and I was most certainly displeased with those results. Nonetheless, while my slice of life came with sleights of life, I took pride in my accomplishments as well. When it comes to my experience, it can feel like too much at times. That is why I try to stay positive and smile, even when I have to grin and bear it.
What I Have Learned
Living on my own has taught me a lot. Take the expression “Practice makes perfect.” My life wound up teaching me a spin on that saying, “Procrastination makes problems.” It is a lesson that applies to us all. If you have some task to do, do not put it off— do it as soon as you possibly can. Have no time right now? Scheduling and structure helps out immensely, and they are what allow you to sort whatever proverbial clutter you have in your life into a well-timed series of actions. Without one, you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed instead of organized. But do not stress, it is not as difficult as one would lead on. One crucial thing to do is set a time for your sleep habits, social life, work hours, and other activities. Scheduling your meals is equally as important, and consistency in this, alongside balancing all other areas leads to success. It might seem like a daunting task at first, but it pays off tremendously. Speaking of paying off, here is another one of life’s lessons: Manage your money. Whether it is cash, credit, or other forms, you will be much better off when you keep track of what you spend. By extensions, limit what you spend. Keeping a close eye on your hard-earned money also means ensuring that you can afford all of your living expenses. Make sure you have enough money in your accounts and plan ahead. Know in advance what bills are due so that you can set aside enough money that you have saved to pay them off. Also make sure to plan for emergencies, situations that force you to spend more money than initially expected, such as periods of unemployment. Those are tips I have gathered from living on my own, and I am sure there is someone out there who could benefit from them.
There are many adults with autism, and more than a few struggle with living independently. It can be a challenge even to adults like me who are high-functioning. However, such a step in the path of life can be reached if the right resources are there. I hope that through this article, I have become one of those resources myself. I hope that I have encouraged those like me to make that step, that they further develop a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, and peace. I also hope to see the day when everyone on the spectrum can get help and support with housing, jobs, healthcare, and the multitude of other issues that we, in varying degrees, confront our entire lives. I believe that day will come through spreading such awareness at the Madison House Autism Foundation.