(10/2011) Remember when we were little boys and girls, and we couldnít wait to grow up and do those things that we were not allowed to do? We started off by wanting to go to school and get on the T-ball
and soccer teams. Then we wanted to move on to middle and high school, drive a car like Mom and Dad, and have our own house and job. No kids ever listen to their parents when they say, "Just enjoy what you have now because as
soon as you blink itís gone." We are always concerned about whatís next in life, and we never seem to take time to just sit back and enjoy it. Itís so much easier to do that when youíre younger and donít have the
responsibilities that adults have in this world.
I have gotten a crash course on adult responsibilities since starting my junior year. It came as a total surprise to me because I had always thought of myself as responsible. I knew what I was doing and
what was coming next. I have always worked hard on everything that I do, and I thought I was pretty prepared for what life would throw at me. Well, once again, I learned that my way of thinking was all wrong.
As most of you know, juniors at Mount St. Maryís can live in the campus apartments. I was very excited about this style of living because you get to live with your closest friends and cook for yourself.
It was a change from the highly esteemed dorm life that I had gotten used to over the past two years, and I was ready to move on and up in the world. It was exciting moving in and seeing how much space my roommates and I had,
even though the kitchen was kind of small. Right away, the conversation focused on what theme we should use to decorate the common room, how we should organize the furniture and so on. There was a flutter of excitement, but that
was all going to have to wait because we had to unload and unpack, which got interrupted because of the hurricane, but, hey, it wasnít the end of the world.
Things became a confusing pain when they didnít go the way we planned. It always seems to take longer than expected to unpack, which honestly took me about five days. I wasnít too concerned, however,
because I had bigger things to worry about--like food. I wasnít going to have a meal plan, and I needed to get groceries; otherwise I would starve.
My roommates and I went shopping because we forgot to bring some things and we all needed at least some food. One of my roommates, Kristyn, also doesnít have a meal plan so we decided to share the food
bill. Itís so much cheaper to divide the cost in half. This only works because we eat most of the same things, and the things that we eat individually even out. It worked out really well because by sharing we greatly reduced the
monthly cost. Still, the first two times we went through the line the bill gave me sticker shock! I never completely understood just how much it costs to eat! I took it for granted that my parents always had food on the table,
and I never worried about the costs. When Kristyn and I went shopping, I knew that buying the cheaper or the store brand could cut the price. With cheese, however, we found out the hard way why there was such a big difference
between the price of the store brand and the brand name. Never again will we buy store-brand cheese. With most other items, however, we can get the cheapest brand so long as we arenít sacrificing taste. Now, I fully understand
the running joke about broke college students eating Ramen Noodles and finding many different ways to use them; they are cheap! It is a challenge to eat well in college while staying under budget.
If college students donít have a food budget I think they will have a harder time adjusting to life after college. They will end up in debt or their parents will have to bail them out, and if that happens
they will not learn how to grow up and be responsible. Your parents will not let you fall flat on your face; they will help you out and teach valuable life lessons in the process.
My way of life is different now that Iím in an apartment. I hardly ever go to Patriot Hall to eat. Sometimes Iíll go for lunch if Iím running late, or if I need a coffee in-between classes (that is always
a must), or if I donít have time to cook when classes and work are close together. As a general rule, however, I make time to cook my own food; for lunch its quick easy meal like a sandwich, leftovers, eggs, wraps, etc. I always
seem to eat lunch at a normal time, but I usually donít eat dinner until seven, eight, or even nine because I have field hockey practice and evening meetings to go to. Once I get back to my room, I have to shower and cook my
dinner before I can actually eat it. Honestly, though, I donít mind eating later at night. Itís more work, yes, because it takes time to cook your dinner, eat it and clean up, but I wouldnít go back to a meal plan. I like having
the flexibility of eating according to my schedule.
Many college students are concerned that you arenít going to have time to cook and so should just stay on a meal plan, but you will make the time because youíre hungry, and if you donít cook you will stay
that way. It all really comes down to time management. You have to plan your meals around how much time you have, for example my later nights I eat leftovers or meals that donít require a lot of prep time. The nights that
Kristyn and I donít have night class, get back earlier from practice and work, or there is a show on we have more time to make a meal like Tortellini with mushrooms, and alfredo sauce. We always have fun cooking and trying to
work with an oven that burns everything, including the brownies I was making the other night, and one out of our four burners is broken. Sometimes it can be very frustrating when things come out burnt to a black crisp, like the
heart brownies I made, but it is very rewarding to cook for yourself. I also believe that learning to cook is one of those growing pains that teach us to be responsible adults without crashing and burning. Donít you wish you
could go back to those carefree days of playing outside in the sunshine when you see the total on a grocery bill, knowing that youíre going to have to pay it in order to eat?
Read past editions of Samantha Strub's Four Years at the Mount