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Fire burning on the dance floor

What burning parchment paper while cooking in my apartment taught me about living on my own

I managed to start a fire in the kitchen in the first two weeks of living in an apartment. My roommates and I elected to use our oven to make toast instead of purchasing a toaster. 

We put the bread on a parchment paper lined baking sheet in the oven at 500 degrees on a broil. A few minutes later to our surprise, the parchment paper caught on fire along the edges and was quickly shrinking and burning in the oven. 

In a panic, I turned off the oven and used my hand to fan out the flames. While I put the fire out and didn’t set off the fire alarm, I was still rather concerned with how poorly the entire situation could have gone. 

My roommates and I failed to read the directions listed on the roll of parchment paper, which clearly stated, “do not use on broil or with temperatures above 425 degrees.” If I had noticed this later, I could have started a large fire that I couldn’t control simply because I didn’t read the instructions.

It then became readily apparent that I needed to learn how to cook. Although I make pasta more than any other meal and it’s relatively easy to make, I don’t want another fire scare. Cooking in general is an incredibly valuable skill when it comes to taking care of yourself.

Naturally, I had to embrace my independence and be responsible for myself. While it’s rather responsible to not start fires, I became more aware of my abilities, behaviors and interests. I’ve had time to reflect on my perception of myself and others. I’ve noticed that I’m a bit more extroverted than I previously thought I was.

In a shared space, there’s a balance between how you occupy that space as an individual and how others affect you and how you affect them. Although this is a more subconscious experience, I have a better understanding of myself and my relationships with others.

My roommates and I enjoy being in the common spaces together and in each other’s presence, but we all also enjoy being alone at different times of the day. A reality of living with others is evaluating how and when you spend time with each other.

A supportive group of friends though is a valuable addition to your independence. My roommates happen to be my closest friends, but we’re all in a similar position of learning to be independent while occupying the same space. We are learning with each other, and while I’m on my own, I’m not alone.

Living on your own is a highly anticipated milestone in one’s college career. To the first years who are looking forward to living on their own, these life lessons will become evident in many if not all of your experiences. I’d characterize these lessons as important aspects of one’s development and natural transition to adulthood.

Although it may seem that I’ve glamorized living on your own, it’s more so a multifaceted learning experience where there are seemingly positive and negative aspects to it. It’s normal to find living on your own boring or lonely. It can be lonely. In the larger scheme of things though, learning to be comfortable and content on your own is crucial.

There will be times when you are alone or when you feel lonely. I have felt alone even with my closest friends. This is unavoidable, but it is part of maturing in college and throughout life.

Curiously, the fire alarm has gone off in the entire building three times now due to others’ cooking mishaps. Each time, the smell of smoke creeps into the stairwell as everyone swiftly makes their way to the parking lot at any given hour because someone burnt popcorn. 

A testament to how common of an experience this is, it’s normal to make mistakes when you’re on your own. Whether it’s starting an actual fire or introspectively learning more about yourself, you are growing as an individual.

We’ve managed to make the apartment feel like home now with sentimental decor. The burnt piece of parchment paper is now displayed in the kitchen, taped to the fridge — a reminder of the inevitable mistakes that we will make.

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