Why I Moved Out At Age 17 and What I Learned From It
As my senior year of high school was coming to an end, I received the horrible news that my grandmother had passed away. I had loved and cared for her very much; she had helped raise me when I was younger while my father was off at work and my mom was both working and finishing her college degree. She had touched the lives of everyone in the family in many different ways. What she didn’t anticipate was the final way in which she would impact the lives of my cousins and I. At her funeral on February 5, 2014, one of my cousins from St. Louis approached me. I had never talked to him much given a 15 year age difference and the fact that he lived 432 miles away from me.
Little did I know that this brief, ten-minute conversation would reconnect me with distant family, land me my current job, and completely change my life. My cousin Justin and I first reminisced about memories we had of our grandmother and laughed over how she would often call me by his name. Then, the conversation shifted and became about me. He rattled off the typical questions everyone asks a high school senior: “Where are you going to school next year? Do you know what you will be studying? Etc.” Although I wasn’t sure yet, I told him that I would most likely either stay in Omaha and go to UNO (University of Nebraska at Omaha or University of No Opportunity as some joke) or attend Loyola Chicago come Fall ’14. I then went on to explain to him that I would be pursuing a business degree and told him why I thought business was cool and what I wanted to study.
His response, although I can’t recall it verbatim, went something along the lines of, “That’s awesome! Y’know, my brother and I just started a company with the help of my dad. You should definitely come down to St. Louis for like a month this summer and intern with us and help us out. I’ll give you a call closer to the beginning of summer to give you more details.”
The conversation continued and my cousin Justin then went on to describe the company and the products they made. He told me that I could actually try it out that night because they already had business up in Omaha.
Madrinas Coffee: the product mentioned in the article
A couple of months later, I received a call from my cousin, just as he had promised. He went over some details with me, gave me my flight information, told me that I would be staying with my uncle (his dad), and then we continued our lives as normal until it was time for me to go down to St. Louis. He told me that he wanted my job description to be a surprise and that he was going to wait to tell me what I would be doing until I had arrived. To this day, I still think that Justin didn't tell me simply because he had not yet figured out what it was I was going to be helping them with. I had no idea what to prepare for and I was nervous, but excited.
This was it. I was officially moving out for the first time. After I had arrived, unpacked, and had gotten settled, my uncle approached me and told me the situation. He explained that he would be gone a lot of the time for his other businesses, that the office was only a five minute drive away, and that I could use anything in the house. He also informed me that I would be driving one of his cars the entire time I was there and that he would give me $100 a week “for meals.”
So, at age 17, I found myself in an entirely different city, living with family that I wasn’t very close to, and forced to feed myself on my own. I had never lived anywhere away from my home before. I had never cooked anything other than frozen food before. I had never gone grocery shopping on my own and had to plan ahead to see what meals to make. I had never had the luxury of not needing to pay for gas (the company would reimburse me), being able to stay out as late as I wanted, do whatever I wanted, and basically have complete freedom.
Ultimately, I was forced to learn how to live on my own at 17. That was just one side of it though. As I mentioned before, my cousin had withheld my job description and what all I would be doing in this internship until the day after I arrived in St. Louis. That day, I went to the office and was told that I would be driving around all day, visiting stores that sold our product, giving out coupons to employees, and speaking with managers about how things were going. The last two parts of this were the challenging aspects for me. I wasn’t the most quiet kid, but I still was not at the point where I could comfortably talk to new people who possessed more power and influence than I did. I still remember talking to those store managers to this day and can genuinely say that I wasn’t horrible, but I have definitely improved by leaps and bounds since then.
The five weeks that I spent in St. Louis the summer before I started college helped me to be more outgoing and confident. I learned to manage my time better (I was working 8-12 hour days), deal with being independent (I could do whatever I wanted with my spare time), go grocery shopping, cook actual meals (with the help of my mom via FaceTime), and live with people I never had before. Looking back, I probably grew up more in those five weeks than any other period of my life. The day I returned to Omaha, I returned an entirely new man. I had returned with less than 48 hours left until I was supposed to move into my dorm at UNO, meaning that I had officially moved out of my mother’s house, only this time, I was ready.
© 2016 Colin Wattonville