Making a Home: The Single Girl Apartment

Previously in this story: The run-down charm of an old house and the community of college life.

Photo: The commute where I prayed that my ’92 Ford Tempo would get me to work and back home again.

Accustomed to the activity of college life, staring at a computer screen for eight hours in a cubicle every day exhausted me. I came home to my one-bedroom, single-girl apartment and slept. I slept all the time, for several weeks.

In my awkward business-casual attire, I longed for days when I could wear my overalls to class and my favorite pink Patsy Cline cowgirl shirt.

Making friends was slow-going, and new friends often moved away. What was the point of living somewhere where I didn’t have relationships? I wanted to run back to my college town where I still had friends.

I got used to cooking for one, freezing leftovers, and listening to the hum of the dishwasher. I bought a washing machine and a dryer. Most of my furniture was still garage-sale castoffs. I gradually started cleaning out some of the clutter I had brought with me in my hurry to furnish a home by myself.

One thing I bought new was my Fiesta plates (six place settings, each in a different color), and I still use those today.

It was after I’d lived in this apartment for a couple of years that I started dating my future-husband Doug, though we only saw each other once in a while since we didn’t live in the same city. He was carefully vague about what he thought would be the future of our relationship, so I decided not to wait around.

I was ready to shed the temporary feeling of an apartment, and my rent was going up. Doug and I seemed to have different life goals, so I decided that we shouldn’t date. We broke up.

It was the early days of the housing bubble, interest rates were low, and buying a home was the thing to do. I wanted to feel established. I bought a condo by the lake (the second place I looked at), and even though it was dated, I had seen enough home makeovers on HGTV to imagine its potential.

A couple of hours after getting the keys, I remembered that I didn’t know how to do any of those repairs. I was short on funds, the condo needed a ton of work, and I didn’t know how to change a light fixture, much less repair the shower.

All those hours spent watching HGTV had failed me.

–To be continued. –

It doesn’t seem to be talked about very often, but transitioning from college to full-time work was really hard for me. Did anyone else experience something similar?

The Making a Home Story:

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Denise C. says:

    I never went to college, transitioning from a full-time job (50+ hours weekly) to being a stay-at-home mom was a huge transition for me.
    Can’t wait for the next chapter of this post! ;) Have a great weekend!

  2. I worked full time while attending college. I married 2 yrs into college. I have never lived on my own. Bet it’s fun though! I imagine going back to work after my stay at home years will be the hardest.

  3. Yes! I thought the transition from college to grown-up was excurciating. I was living in a fairly expensive town with a low-paying job and couldn’t afford my own place. I didn’t have many friends, and I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, my hobbies connect me with some great friends, and my husband. But that took a few years!

    Sheri Hall´s last post…The last snow of February

  4. The hardest part of the college/working transition for me was that I suddenly didn’t have dozens of friends living within steps of me! When I wasn’t working, I was bored out of my mind – no friends living within walking distance and no money to spend on entertainment.

  5. I had a hard time. I graduated from a small women’s college just days before I married my husband. At a little college, you know EVERYONE and there is always someone to talk to and tons of girls to hang out with. I was busy with friends, clubs, classes, volunteering…you name it! I never really remember sleeping…

    I loved being married (and still do) but it was hard to go from that to our quiet little house by ourselves.

    Five years later, we have a two-year old and it’s not so quiet anymore :)

    Rachel´s last post…Oreo Ice Cream Cups

  6. It was a rough transition for me, too. I went straight from college in Wisconsin to living on my own (actually, with my aunt for two months) in the span of two months. I don’t think anyone can truly be prepared for all of the “grown-up” decisions that come into play when you live by yourself. I had never lived on my own (even with roommates in an apartment), so I had to take of insurance and finding a place to live and paying bills and all of that stuff all by myself. It was terrifying for me, but I made it through OK. Now I’m a mom…that’s a whole new level of terror. :)

  7. Jessicah says:

    I thought the transition was hard too. I missed all my friends, and I hated having to be somewhere 40 hrs a day. The hardest for me was the first Christmas season, where I only got Christmas day off. Not getting Christmas break was rough, and then starting the same thing again in January seemed dull after years of having new classes every semester! Just the other day I was bemoaning the fact that jobs don’t come with semesters! :)

  8. I went to university 18 hours away from my hometown. I had hometown friends and university friends but when I moved home from university the friends that I had spent 4 year with were 18 hours away, and the high school friends I hadn’t seen much in 4 years… Then I got my first job 2 hours away from home so my boyfriend and I moved. We lived together, which was tough, had no other friends in the city, which was tough, and we drove home every weekend and always debated about which parents to stay with, which was tough. For me, it wasn’t the going to work part that was tough, it was the circumstances around moving and living in a new place and living with my boyfriend for the first time that was the tough part. I went through a tough university program so I worked LESS when I was working than I did while going to school.

  9. I graduated from college in 2004 and I still feel out of sorts. My husband and I got married the summer of graduation and moved from MI to TN 4 days later. We started graduate work in the fall, we were both working, and then got pregnant. 5 years and 3 kids later he graduated and even though we have a house and kids I still don’t feel at home or like an adult. One day we’ll adjust.

    Tara´s last post…Thoughts on music

  10. Yes, it was hard for me, too. I agree that it is exhausting to go from a college schedule with breaks between classes, time to wind down, new classes each semester, and summer/holiday breaks to full-time working of 40+ hrs. a week, eight hrs. a day, five days a week in the same office, and no time off other than the occasional holiday and what you subtract out of limited vacation days.

    As others have said, it also doesn’t help that often the transition involves daunting tasks like moving away from friends, buying a home, taking on student loan payments, getting a job (and showing up at 7, 8, 9am every day with your sh!t together), etc.

    I’ve been out of school for five years now and I think I finally feel comfortable with it all.

  11. I didn’t really have a hard time because Kyle and I got married before our senior year of high school, then stuck around in our college town for a few years working on graduate work. By the time we moved to Fort Worth and started working, we were both SO READY. Plus, teaching lends itself to community, so it was a nice transition for me. BUT, I can see how in your life story, this would have been a difficult season.

    I am LOVING this, Rachel. I can’t wait to hear more!

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…{this moment} sunshine, shadows, and the winds of spring

  12. I could really relate to the exhaustion you felt–I realize now (hindsight is 20/20!) that I was in completely the wrong career and I think the only way I got through those first few years after college was God’s grace. Honestly. It didn’t help that I had to get up at 5 am every weekday morning and I’m not exactly a morning person–coffee became my new best friend.

    I guess it’s all part of growing up and wising up.

    By the way, I love Fiesta ware, too. Lovely.

  13. Yes, that was a tough transition for me. Love this series!

  14. i got a job right out of college and it was so tough. i moved away in a heart beat… 500 miles away. GREAT career move, but tough.

    julia´s last post…All Things Blogging: Writing Style

  15. I had a terrible, lonely time after college. My friends and I talk about it on occasion, because we all had a hard time. Plus, it was unexpected. No one ever mentioned that transition… ever. I have often said that I needed a “Transition To The Real World” class.

    I felt depression for the first time in my life, working full time, living in an apartment. I spent money, walked the mall, dated the wrong kind of guys, all out of loneliness.

    Through the years, I’ve found things that prevent depression. There are volunteer opportunities everywhere–get involved. Help others any way you can. The benefits of service to others are real (and last longer than the thrill of buying a new shirt!). It doesn’t take much. Read to residents at the nursing home, visit someone at their home, for example.

    I once heard that you can never be lonely when eating spaghetti; and I think it is true. I also found that shopping for greeting cards was a quick pick-me-up. Finding funny cards for the ones I love (and miss) was really, really fun. Plus, I imagined their surprise when they got a card out of the blue.

    Most importantly, find a church. (I had a lot of trouble with this one.) Finding a church will give you a sense of community pronto. Belonging to a church offers lots of opportunities for involvement. Plus, the kind of guys that you will be hanging around will be better for dating–your mother will think so, too.

  16. It was definitely hard—I stayed in my college town to work, but all my friends left to work elsewhere or move in with their parents! (This was in the post 9/11 slump.) However, I had paid my own way through college, so graduating and having an income and being able to afford (the payments on) a new car also felt really great after struggling to pay for even the basics while I was in school.

    Sally Parrott Ashbrook´s last post…Six Days Without Sugar

  17. After college, my husband started his masters. We had to move so far away! I had to get a real job, while he continued to be a student. My first job here was so many hours, so little pay, and so frustrating! I could feel it eating away all that was good in me. I finally quit after a year, right in the middle of a recession. I couldn’t take another second! It only took a few weeks to find a better paying and more rewarding job. The hours are sparse, but it turns out we can survive on a part-time income and we’re a happier healthier couple for the changes we made! I still wish we had more friends though. It was easier to meet people with common interests in school. I also miss home. He will be finished soon, so everything is about to change again. I hope those changes bring us back to Virginia.
    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next!

    Frances´s last post…Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  18. Really interesting. All your sleeping sounds like you may have been a little depressed, which has likely crossed your mind (and isn’t very relevant years later!).

    I was extremely ready to be done with college – I could see how people could drop out halfway through their senior year – and I started my post-college life with an insane commute. I got a job that started in June, but I didn’t have an apartment until September, and I didn’t have/couldn’t afford/didn’t have long-term need for a car, so I cobbled together transit from my parents’ place to get to work – 3 hours each way. YES THREE HOURS. I left home at 5 am and got home at 8pm and went to bed.

    That only lasted 12 weeks, but I’m sure you can imagine how easy *anything* would feel after that. Plus, I was living with a friend from college, so I had someone to be poor with.

    I had roommates for most of the next decade or so; now I live alone and love love love it.

    bethh´s last post…Calendar: Two Thousand Ten – March

  19. Hi, this question is not really relevant to me…but I wanted to say how very much I am enjoying this story! I’m in Texas too, the DFW area. Thanks for sharing!

    Pat´s last post…~ A Reason, a Season, or A Lifetime ~

  20. I got engaged my senior year of college, and was living with my parents at the time, so graduating wasn’t a huge adjustment. But in April following my December graduation, I got married (which also meant I moved in with my husband) and started a new, more “adult” job in a span of two weeks.

    Adjusting to all those major changes at once was hard. I was trying so hard to be a good wife, and to be good at my job, and it was all still new to me. I remember reading Proverbs 31 those first few months and sobbing, thinking “I’ll never live up to this… I just can’t do it all!”

    But life eventually stabilized, as it has a way of doing. I’m so glad those feelings didn’t last forever!

    Amy´s last post…Ultimate Recipe Swap: Chocolate Chip cookies

  21. My story at that time was so different – married during college, working two jobs, never had a place of my own or even a place with friends since I met hubby at 18 and we lived together pretty much as soon as I left home. So there wasn’t the same transition.

    BUT I do love fiestaware.

    AND I love hearing your story.

    Emily@remodelingthislife´s last post…Savor The Small Moments

  22. Elizabeth says:

    haha, I have been experiencing this transition this year. I am in my first year of teaching and my husband teased me at the beginning of the school year that I napped every afternoon. My mother has been particularly encouraging about this, as she tells stories about coming home from her first year of “real work” and sleeping all evening while dad made dinner. But really, I am exhausted constantly. I hear it gets better though :-)

  23. I got married while going to university and set up a home (I had lived in apartments and with my parents before marriage) while still going to school. And then my first child was born one month after graduating and we had already decided I’d be a stay at home mom so that settled that. We didn’t buy our first home until a few years later. We kind of mixed everything up and squished it all together, so to speak. The things we do for love!

  24. quarter-life crisis darlin. still going thru it.

    Sandhya Ganesha´s last post…Dreamblogging*

  25. Oh wow! What memories this post brings back. I went to school in WI and moved home to Colorado after graduation. Had the summer off while waiting for my CO teaching license to finalize. Anxious to teach in the fall (1993) but during my fun summer off I blew out my knee and had to have major reconstructive surgery. Doc told me I couldn’t teach for a year as there was no way I could be on my feet all day that soon. So, I was stuck in my hometown, living with my parents, looming student loan payments and now major $$$ for the knee – check out insurance coverage prior to graduation…. I had passed both the 22 or full time student thing and had no insurance for all of this. So, I was stuck needing PT 20 hours a week, not able to work and major debts looming. All my hometown friends had jobs and income and were NOT living with their parents! NOT a fun time of my life. Thru my church I found a great community, but remember someone saying it takes 2 years for young adults to fully find their place after college. I thought I would die – 2 years seemed like forever after the instant community of college life! But, I survived… and ended up in college and young adult ministry because of the experience!

  26. Yep, you’re not alone. I think that EVERYONE goes through that horrible transition, yet no one warns us about it. Why not???? They DO need a “so you’re graduating” class required your senior year of college. Then again, do we really want to get that sort of depressing news in our last year of fun? Probably not…

    April´s last post…Name that Blog!!

  27. I graduated from college with a 7 month pregnant belly. So I went from a full-time, productive student to a young stay at home mother on the brink of moving across the ocean from Colorado to Germany for three years. What a crazy transition. Though I knew that I wanted to stay home with my children, it felt strange to not be waking up, getting dressed and getting out the door to be productive everyday by 7:30am.

  28. We got married 1 month after we graduated. We still lived in our college town, so that was nice, but we still suffered through the transition from students to being adults. That first year was so hard. My husband worked a crummy job in a cube where he ofen only saw daylight for the 5 minute commute he had into work. He REALLY had a hard time being cooped up in the dark. It really took a toll on him emotionally. I had a hard time, too. I struggled to find a job, and then shortly after I got hired, I found out I was pregnant. I spent a big chunk of our first year of marriage throwing up. In 14 months I went from single college girl to married working girl to stay at home mom. We were thrust really quickly into a much different stage of life than our friends (most of whom were still single.) 5 years and 3 years later there are still moments where this all still seems surreal. Sometimes I still feel like i’m playing house.

  29. Karen (Scotland) says:

    Hmm, I was sort of the opposite. I’d studied for a degree that, by second year, I realised I didn’t love. However, it was a strong degree to have (law) so I kept going and finished the four years on a course I hated, in a city I didn’t love, and I never really embraced the whole student life (I just don’t GET why anyone would steal traffic cones…)

    Add to that the fact that I worked full-time hours (cleaning, library assistant, babysitting/nannying, frying chicken) around my studies and it was actually a relief for me to start “real” work once I got my Librarianship diploma – I had evenings for the first time ever.

    A move to a much friendlier city (Glasgow as opposed to Aberdeen for anyone that knows Scotland), buying my own treasured wee flat with the deposit I’d scraped together from all my little jobs, and a job in a library with a tight team of folk my own age and I was in heaven!

    I guess the fact that I was miserable, bored, overworked and poor as a church mouse as a student meant real life could only be better!

    Loving this wee series and looking forward to finding out what happens next. Real life stories are so much more exciting than TV I find nowadays!

  30. Great post!

    I can really relate to the making friends (or difficulty making friends) part of the transition. It seemed so much easier in college than in real life. Especially moving away from where I went to college. I’m convinced you just don’t have as much free time at your disposal to just “hanging out” and really getting to know someone. That is actually what inspired my business partner (and sister) and I to start our website for making platonic friends. We figured then people could start with someone they have something in common with anyway or start with an activity that both like to do anyway instead of a shot in the dark and increase the chances of developing a real friendship.

  31. It was the most depressed I had ever been in my life. I realized I had totally taken my girlfriends for granted. I felt too young for the working world, but when I went back to visit my college town I was way too old. You’re right, no one ever talks about that time. I was completely shocked and unprepared for how difficult the transition was. College was fun, but if I could pick an age to stay it would be 26. Still young with everything before me, but finally settled & secure in who I was. I’m 29 now, but if you ask the age I feel it will always be 26 :).

    {ang}´s last post…And She’s Mobile

  32. Rachel, your posts on this topic really resontaed with me. I went to a small, Christian university in Oklahoma for my sophomore through senior years of college. Our campus was small enough to walk everywhere. The school is located on the edge of Oklahoma City, and we could always find something to do. I lived in the girls’ dorms for two years, a town house with 10 girls for a semester, and had my own dorm room my last semester. There was always someone around to talk to, people to see movies with, and adventures to be had. I graduated a year ahead of several of my closest friends and moved back to Texas to teach. That first year was hard, and I really missed all of the girls I used to hang out with. I didn’t truly appreciate the close-knit community of SNU until I moved. You know, I think American society puts so much emphasis on independence that when we become young adults and join the 8-5 world of working, we tend to feel that we have to live alone and depend only upon ourselves. This doesn’t seem to be a very healthy mindset. There are so many more benefits to living in a close community, near people you know and love, and upon whom you can depend. We don’t have to do everything alone.

  33. Loving this series! So real and honest. Can’t wait for the next installment!

  34. yes! The transition from college is very difficult. I’ve discussed with several friends how difficult this time can be. No one seems to warn you about it. :)

    marissa´s last post…Goals for this weekend:

  35. Finished college, got married and moved 8 hrs away from everything I had ever known to a very small town in the middle of no where. I desperately missed having friends that I could just drop in at their house and watch Friends or American Idol while eating fresh cookies (or any junk food) with…. not to mention having a social life, or night life.

    When I moved I looked around at the people with my nose in the air thinking to myself… these people are not my age, didn’t go to college, and have nothing in common with me.

    Boy was I wrong. There were lots of great things I learned that first year out of college. And when we moved away, I waved good bye to some of my very best life long friends from that small town, and they were twice my age with no college education.

  36. Yes! It was depressing. I still (ten years later!) miss living so close to such good friends!
    Luckily, my now-husband and I had already been dating for several years, so that helped not to be totally alone. We did have a bunch of friends “in the area” but we were all so busy! (still are, even more so, of course)

  37. I am very interested to see where your story goes, Rachel, there are a lot of cliff-hangers in this last installment – even though we know where it ends ultimately, it will be very interesting to see how you got there (great story-telling technique, btw).
    I had the experience of graduating, hoping to get a job and an apartment near my college friends, but after a few months of nothing (i also graduated into a recession) realizing I had to move back home with my parents until i could get on my own financial feet. I’ll never forget getting off the plane and seeing my parents waiting, and my mother opened her arms and welcomed me but had this look of pity in her eyes. I hated seeing that. So I did live at home, found a job, and eventually got on my own via a house-sitting gig with a friend and then to a shared apartment about a year later. So parents helped me to get on my feet, but i just don’t think there’s an easy way to make this transition. Those who immediately land the job and apartment often complain later that they didn’t have enough time to experiment in their twenties, try differnet jobs and roommates, etc, so i think this is just inherently an awkward transitional time for everyone.

    looking forward to the next installment!

  38. Wow, I can’t tell you how comforting it is to read this post and all these comments and know I’m not alone! I graduated college seven years ago, and I just remember feeling so completely lost… I still dwell on that time, wondering if the road I took was the right one. If I had chosen a different path, maybe I would have been happy and fulfilled instead of afraid and alone? I catch myself playing the what-if game… what if I’d kept going to church, dated better guys, gone to graduate school instead of working at a bookstore… the list goes on and on. Even now, as a reasonably happy and competent 28 year old, it’s so hard to keep from getting caught up in what might have been.

    Thank you so much for this post, and the reminders that this feeling is totally normal. Now, in hindsight, I’m grateful for my post-graduation adventures, and happy with where my path has taken me. It’s so easy to lose sight of everything that’s going right with your life. I just discovered this blog tonight, and I can’t believe what a major eye-opener this has been… thanks again.

  39. This is bizarre, our experiences seem identical! I’m currently on what I (optimistically) consider the tail-end of the college/big girl transition. I moved from my college town of Austin to Dallas to follow my boyfriend of 4 years and find a job. It hasn’t been easy and I feel like I’ve grown and changed more in one year than I have at any other point in life.

    I scared the pants off him a few weeks ago when I went to look at a house (my job, which also involves staring at a computer screen for 8 hours) is stable, and it seemed like a fairly logical step, or at least a darn good dream to keep me going.

    Whats your opinion for us girls in this situation? Do we wait for the menfolk to catch up with us, or move on?