The hallmarks of encroaching adulthood as a second year

Getting by with a little help from mom

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Victoria Laboz is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Emma Klein | Cavalier Daily

An important part of moving away from home for me was embarrassingly realizing how many things I do not know about something as simple as living in an apartment. We all come to the University to learn, but that idea typically bears the image of sitting in a classroom, squinting at illegible scribbled words on the blackboard and red corrective marks on returned essays and exams. Outside of the classroom, however, learning rarely looks like this.

When my mom came to visit me in my first apartment during fall break, learning looked a lot like maneuvering through the aisles of Harris Teeter for a day, cooking until 12 a.m. and splurging on $14 almond butter at the farmer’s market. Sometimes learning does not take the form you always think it will, and sometimes you have to initiate it yourself by calling up your mom at inconvenient times asking for cooking advice.

I have always told people that I am a terrible cook, but that was just because I never really tried my hand at it before. Sure, I would help my mom out in the kitchen until she would eventually kick me out for dicing onions incorrectly or not knowing how to mince garlic properly, but I never had much individual experience with cooking food — I was more of a baker. I did not have proof of my nonexistent cooking skills until recently, when they were manifested in the form of a failed lasagna that was two days’ worth of work in the kitchen. That lasagna not only discouraged me from opening the cookbook again out of fear of butchering another one of its recipes, but made me realize that it was time to call the best cook I know — my mother.

Naturally, I took advantage of when my mother came to visit me during fall break. I helplessly came to her with two butternut squashes in my hands which I had bought on a whim from the farmer’s market a couple weeks back, not knowing how to go about turning them into soup. A couple of hours of baking, scraping, transferring and blending the ingredients later, we had successfully made an edible soup from the squashes I was fully convinced I was going to have to chuck because I did not know how to make anything from them.   

At the grocery store, my mom showed me a few of her secret weapons — the best stain-removers, dishwashing soap, cooking spices and kitchen cabinet staples. Of course, that means she also cautioned me from worse brands she’s tried. As we strolled through the grocery store, we spotted products that reminded us of our cooking mishaps. We shared tragic cooking stories as we walked in circles around the grocery store not being able to find what we were looking for.

Although I officially felt like a 40-year-old who got excited over replacing sink sponges and trying a different-scented hand soap, these were topics that drew my mom and I closer together. Maybe it was just my mom’s enthusiasm for cleaning that began to rub off on me. Maybe I’m finally becoming interested in learning how to “adult” or maybe I’ve realized that I really don’t have another option except to learn how to “adult.” But I later found myself mindlessly scrolling through Amazon reading reviews of steam mops and dehumidifiers instead of clothes and beauty products. Sure, it can be a scary sign of aging to see that Amazon recommends I purchase cooking pots and vacuum cleaners based on my recently viewed history, but these are also the things that can lead to slivered moments of happiness.

I have noticed my standards of happiness change since high school. Coming home to binge-watching shows on Netflix has gradually shifted to coming home to a mug of green tea and reading that week’s New Yorker. Cleaning my room, taking out the kitchen trash and doing my laundry are small satisfactions that feel different from acing assignments. I continue to surprise myself when I get excited over something I never thought I would, but sometimes, there are no better simple pleasures than sitting down to eat your home-cooked meal at the end of a coffee-infused, nail-bitingly long day.

Victoria Laboz is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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