Just fill it up to the line... February 03 2012

...and other things I should have known before leaving the nest.

Three days ago I had boarded a plane alone and ventured thirteen hundred miles away from home to my first year of college. Two days ago I had made inquires about obtaining a part time job as well as successfully cooked my own dinner. Yesterday I had balanced my checkbook, responded to all of my emails, plunged my toilet, changed the batteries in the dorm smoke detector, and was starting to think of myself as a competent and gifted adult.

But today, I caused the seams of an innocent washing machine to erupt like a deranged blue fountain with a billion tiny Tide bubbles. Though a magical experience for all lucky enough to witness it, the washing machine spewed itself into a week-long state of injury and the resultant repair fee slipped under my dorm door the following day was a wake up call: I needed to learn how to do my own laundry without racking up a bill or destroying school property, - as well as mastering a whole slew of other survival skills - if I wanted think of myself as a competent and gifted adult.

When asked to compile a list of indispensable advice for a successful first attempt to subsist without Mom and Pop, number one became Pay Attention – that means go to class, listen when others speak, listen when you speak, wear a watch, read the paper, and consult the owner’s manual. A close second was Tell the Truth. Own a mirror. Value punctuality. Trust your instincts. Save your money. Polish a skill. Write home. Learn how to change a tire, order takeout, defend yourself, receive criticism, put on a tie, hang a shower curtain, pump gas, use a day planner, apologize, tip, study, flirt, vacuum, cook, decline, forgive, and get out of bed when your alarm clock goes off. And finally, you don’t need a pint and a half of Tide to get your clothes clean – just fill it up to the line.

See more on this topic in our How to Ditch Your Parents book.