By Emily M. Dean

I thought I knew everything when I was 19. That’s cliche, but it’s also true. I remember calling my mom with the master plan for my life. I was to move to Ithaca, New York, and take a job teaching dance. At this point in time my mother’s advice sounded a lot like an outdated and broken record to me. I remember telling her that the apartment I’d found would be $700 a month plus utilities. I remember her asking me if it was a nice apartment. I remember saying yes to spite her.

I was filled with excitement towards the unknown. I felt like the bravest person in the world. I remember mapping out my monthly budget and showing it to my mom. It read as follows:

  • $50 a month for gas
  • $100 a month for groceries
  • $700 a month for rent
  • $100 a month for leisure

My mother quickly pointed out that I was driving nearly an hour a day for work, so my gas budget clearly needed adjustments. She explained that I would need much more for groceries, as she would easily spend that amount in one trip. She told me that while $100 a month for leisure may seem nice, it wouldn’t be leaving much room for emergencies. She asked why I didn’t factor in cleaning supplies or materials to set up the place. I couldn’t figure out why my mother was always trying to put me down and hold me back from what I wanted.  I shook it off and told myself this was exactly why I needed to “get out of here.” Despite my mother’s growing anxiety and disapproval, she let me go.

My mother came to stay with me the first week I moved. I know now that she refers to leaving me in my apartment as “one of the hardest things she’s ever done.” There was grime all over the walls, it was a basement of an old house, there were centipedes, and I somehow thought I’d found my oasis.

Flash forward four months. I’m at the grocery store. I know that I don’t have enough money to pay the rent on my disgusting apartment, and I despise being there. The cashier just told me my card was declined for groceries I just tried to purchase. I feel an ocean wave rise up through my chest and into my throat. I run out of the store and all I want is to hug my mother who is across the country from me. I called her. She ended up wiring me money for the groceries, and a couple months later she also ended up paying for me to move home.

The year I spent in Ithaca working four jobs trying to prove my mom and society wrong will always be one of the greatest lessons of my life. It showed me what it means to work for everything. It showed me how much things truly cost in the world. This is why I don’t regret Ithaca, and it’s also why my mother doesn’t regret letting me go to Ithaca. I learned that if someone who has years of financial experience on you tries to give you financial advice, you should listen. Even if that person is your mother. Especially if that person is your mother.

Emily M. Dean is a journalism student at Arizona State University.