When I chose to move to New York, I was taking a chance on a presently non-existent career and myself. After being in Texas for 23 years, I’d become accustomed to the comfort of year-round friends, close family members and the access to a bed. Still, the dream-chaser in me made to decision to pack it all up and make it work, regardless of the circumstances. I took two full suitcases and made my way to my sister’s living room couch in Manhattan. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Everyone should live on a couch at least once in their early twenties. Although it definitely shouldn’t be a long-term solution, crashing on someone’s sofa teaches you a lot of life lessons that can be difficult to learn elsewhere. Here are some of the things I’ve learned while living uncomfortably.
You’ll be humbled.
Everyone wants to seem like they have it together. We all want to graduate college, find the dream career and get paid while doing it. But, as we all know about life, sometimes things don’t line up exactly the way you want or expect them to. When friends or extended family ask you about your living situation after college, it takes swallowing your pride to say you’re living on a couch, which, for many people translates to not “having it all together.” Thankfully, if you’ve made the decision to couch-surf, you’re probably confident enough in yourself to know that this is a temporary set up, so the comments of judgmental people shouldn’t get to you.
You’ll understand wants vs. needs.
Couch-surfing is the cheaper choice of living, so you probably have good knowledge of your financial situation. Still, after college, finances change, regardless of your living situation. Refund money is no longer on the way, your parents have their own bills to pay and the student loan repayments are steadily approaching. While you’re trying to get on your feet, you’ll naturally become more aware of what’s a “need” versus a “want”, what needs to be taken immediately or can be put off until later down the road, and what steps you have to take to get the lifestyle you want.
Your people skills will skyrocket.
I live with my sister, brother-in-law, their roommate and a medium-sized dog in a tiny New York apartment. Space is tight, tensions can get high in the morning and there are extra rules that everyone has to follow to make sure things run smoothly. When you’re forced to live in a cramped space with various personalities, you learn how to work with people on a personal level so their sanity (and yours) remains intact. You learn to value personal space and you become more willing to listen and respect those around you because, well, you’re going to have a pretty unpleasant few months if you don’t.
You life goals become clearer.
Frederick Douglass once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Although I’m certainly not equating my post-college challenges with the struggles that Douglass endured, his words resonate in a lot of situations. When you’re in a situation that’s uncomfortable or challenging, growth is inevitable. Take the odd experience and turn it into something that shapes you for the better.