I tried not to talk to anyone, especially my mother, about my decision to move out. It wasn’t something I wanted to discuss. I figured my father already knew about it, and that was all I really cared about. I figured when it was time for me to go, I would just make the announcement and be gone. That meant that I had to start getting things ready.
That summer was a summer of hard work and intense focus. I tried hard to stay under the radar: I did just enough housework so I wouldn’t get in trouble, and then retreated to the back bedroom and worked quietly on my business for the rest of the day. I took conference calls, I pulled in new clients. I sent out resume after resume after resume and did project after project after project. Checks came in the mail, and once every week or two I asked my father to take me to the bank. I made a Word document called “Money Records” where I kept track of everything I made, everything I spent and everything I banked, in different colors of ink.
I tried not to rock the boat or call attention to myself with my clothes. I wore loose T-shirts and baggy jeans and kept my hair bundled into a clip. I figured I could put my life on hold for a few months and it would be a good investment overall. At Minas Morgul Baptist Church, I wore dark clothes and faded into corners, or hid in the bathroom during breaks between services. During the long, guilt-trippy sermons, I scribbled on sermon note paper, but I was not taking notes. I planned, I made budgets. I tried to figure out exactly how much I would need for food, utilities, rent, gas, insurance and other things each month. I decided that I would budget $5000 to get me started with all of my expenses, and I would leave $5000 in the bank as a buffer. When I had $10,000, I planned to move out.
I decided that I was not going to date anyone, or think about dating anyone, again, as long as I lived at home. I was getting lonely, so that would give me some extra incentive to move out! On another sheet of sermon note paper, I drafted an online dating profile. I decided that once I was settled into my new place, I would put up a profile on Christian Café just to see what would happen.
I also planned my furniture. This was the most fun part. When my brain was tired from working on my business and making endless lists and budgets, I closed my eyes and imagined what my living room, kitchen and bedroom would look like. I figured I could shop at Salvation Army and Goodwill and find some cheap things that would go with the color schemes I had planned. I had never decorated a whole apartment of my own and this was going to be fun.
The centerpiece of my living room was going to be a beautiful Tiffany lamp. Halfway through the summer, I decided I had enough money to buy one, so I ordered it off Amazon and it arrived in a huge box. Stained glass has always made me feel gorgeous inside. I lit up this lamp like a big glowing bonfire and I visualized my living room and my whole apartment around it, with this glowing peacock-colored lamp at the heart. Once I got the lamp, I knew for sure I would be getting out of there.
Something very important happened to me over the summer. I was feeling down one day, after hearing a long guilt-trippy sermon, and I wondered if I was doing the right thing or if God would strike me down dead for trying to escape. I stood in the back bedroom feeling all anxious. Then I suddenly thought: “God, if You’re real, You must be outside of all this. You must be different from what I was taught growing up. God, are You there?” A weird thing happened. It was like I could feel a presence all of a sudden, full of light and full of peace. It was kind of like there was a light shining down into my soul from the top right corner of the room, if that makes any sense. I felt like I was praying to the Unknown God that St. Paul’s pagan people put up the altars to. Ever since then. I have always known that He is there.
Sometime in mid-August, my father drove by an old car junkyard on the side of the road and saw a 1999 Saturn that seemed to be in good condition. He took me out to look at it, I liked it, and I bought it for $2000. I paid cash in an envelope, and I got the title and keys. I had a real car.
I called Geico and got set up with car insurance, because I had heard a Geico ad on the radio that said “Fifteen minutes saves you fifteen percent.” Then I drove straight to Goodwill and bought every plate, mug and piece of silverware that I could see, as well as a second-hand coffee pot, which I loaded into the trunk. I had dishes now! Keeping my remaining budgeted $3000 in mind, I then went to Dollar General and stocked up on cheap toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, soap, shampoo and detergent. For the past couple of months, I had been making about $1500 a month. I didn’t know if I would have enough money for toilet paper next month.
Nothing could stop me now, I was on a roll! I had seen a sign for some apartments near Goodwill, so I drove to the (somewhat shabby) complex and walked into the office. I said, “I would like to rent an apartment, please, how do I go about this?” They gave me a bunch of papers to fill out and told me that I would have to go home and get some check stubs so I could prove I had a business. I drove back home, grabbed them and made it back to the office before they closed for the afternoon. I paid the deposit, I paid some extra money that I guess I had to pay because I was an unknown quantity, I paid the renter’s insurance and I got everything squared away that day. They gave me a big folder of information and told me that I could come get my key in two weeks because that was when the apartment would be ready. The rent was going to be $688 per month, and I figured I could just about handle that.
I went home and told my mother that I had an apartment and I was moving out in two weeks. She looked stunned. I took her over to see the sample apartment on the property and she did not say anything, just stared at me with a frozen face and said “But… But….”
Now I had two weeks to find some furniture. I wanted a red couch, and lo and behold, several days later I saw a red couch sitting by the side of the road. The people were so happy to get rid of it, they delivered it for me! I also got a table and chairs on sale at K-mart, a futon bed, and a comforter and some pillows. Everything else I needed, I found second-hand. I was still under budget, with about $6000 total in the bank at this point.
I called Duke Electric and set up my electricity, and I called Comcast and set up my Internet. My last birthday at home, I was 24 years old. My mother had not really been talking to me, but she gave me a miniature crockpot. My dad helped me more some of my larger pieces of furniture over, but by and large, I moved myself in with no assistance. The first thing I did was plug in my Tiffany lamp. It sat on the floor, and in its glow, I set about putting everything in my cupboards and getting everything all set up.
My lease started on September 18, 2012. I had my own place. I got down on my knees on the carpet and thanked the Real God.
To be continued.