So at 10:34 p.m. Friday, July 4, when my parents left my apartment, it finally hit me — I was alone. For the first time I was responsible for every aspect of my life.
Just a couple days earlier, I packed up my car and made the trip to Pittsburgh, leaving my family and friends some 500 miles -- an eight-hour car trip -- behind.
What did I do my first two nights alone in Pittsburgh? I won’t lie. I stayed in my apartment and wore out my AIM program and my cell phone battery talking to anyone and everyone I could.
After two days of self-confinement, though, I realized it was time for me to get up and out. I’ve never been one for sitting around at home and I wasn’t going to put myself under house arrest.
And don’t feel too bad for me yet; I do know a couple of people in Pittsburgh. A fraternity buddy of mine took me out to The Waterfront to assure me there was nightlife in Pittsburgh. I also joined the Squirrel Hill JCC; all that sitting around would eventually catch up to me.
As I slowly built my social life I realized that I must focus on more than just going out on the weekends. The first challenge—grocery shopping.
I had been in the grocery store before, but only for a couple items at most. Now I was shopping for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Let’s just say I made some rookie errors.
I started in the frozen foods, my first big mistake. Needless to say I returned to the frozen foods at the end of my trip to replace all of my now-thawed Hot Pockets and my ice cream, which had become soup.
The simplest tasks had me baffled. My mom had always decided what brand of food I ate. I became that guy who’s staring at all the different types of chips for 20 minutes deciding if his Tostito’s needed to have the scoop shape or not.
And if you thought the chip aisle was a disaster, the less said about the cereal aisle, the better.
So I got out of the grocery store alive and considered that to be a success. I was on top of the world until I got a call from a family member who questioned me on a slightly more serious topic.
Instead of what cereal did I buy, she asked me what synagogue I was joining? What a great question! Again, I had always just gone to whatever place my parents went. What synagogue is right for me? Do I even still go to synagogue?
I have visited one already and not to play favorites I will look at some others, but this is the moment in my life where I basically decide the intensity to which I practice Judaism. Just three months ago I was drinking every night of the week with my fraternity brothers in Oxford, Ohio. It shouldn’t surprise you that the topic of synagogues and religion didn’t come up to often during a drinking game…even at the Jewish fraternity.
So I have conquered some of the few challenges I faced in my first month or so living alone in Pittsburgh. Yes the chips and cereal kicked my butt, but I’m learning and adapting. So I’ll become an expert shopper, learn how to iron and do laundry and hopefully soon I’ll get that new girlfriend—don’t worry mom.
(Mike Zoller’s column “On My Own,” which will be published monthly, deals with issues facing a young Jewish adult as he lives on his own in a new city for the first time. Questions and comments can be emailed to email@example.com)