Adulting: What We’ve Learned

Adulting: What We’ve Learned

What do I even look like lulz. I think I’m 26 here.
Women learning to do things entirely on their own – I’m the biggest champion of that. Not all of us get to do the living-independently thing though, which is not a dealbreaker and you can eventually end up in the same mental space as someone who has gone that route. But the pace of stuff you pick up and how quickly you adapt to being with yourself, is unmatched when you’re on your own. Adulting is good fun.

Atiya & Amna (lifestyle interns) have lived away from home in their own unique situations and since I’ve done the same too, we decided to have a conversational kind of post where all three of us share our respective ‘adulting’ situations and what we learned during that time. If you’ve ever considered being on your own as an option or thinking about doing it for a bit, fingers crossed this post gives you some interesting perspective. Let’s do this?

Disclaimer: All of us apologise in advance for the terrible photos. We did not know better.

When and where was I ‘adulting’? 2013-2015, Columbia, Missouri, USA
What was your living situation? Three months with roomies in a 3-bedroom house, 21 months in a studio apartment.
How old were you? 24 – 26 years
Living alone meant a lot of bad selfies taken in awful lighting
Here is a list of things that will happen when you move into your first apartment: You will eat cereal in the dark because you haven’t bought lamps for your new place yet. You will melt a plastic colander because you turned on the wrong burner (why you placed it there is another mystery altogether). Your heart will break throwing out good fruit and vegetables because you thought you should be super fancy and try that recipe you found on YouTube. You will pick up the phone and just dial Dominos. True story(ies).

I got a scholarship to go to a country where women live alone and they’re pretty much prepared to live that way. Being by myself, cooking my own food, keeping my space clean taught me one of the most valuable lessons one can learn in their early 20s: How to be comfortable with one’s own solitude. And the lessons I learnt from that experience, now apply to my life even when I have come back to Pakistan and live with my family.

What I learned
1. I am alright with doing things on my own. Because I used to run to the nearby store for milk and eggs, doing the same at home does not phase me.

2. I can handle myself if I’m alone in public. Very recently, I ended up in a park in a Karachi with about 45 minutes to kill. I read a book not at all bothered by the people who were in the park, staring. 

L: As a student of magazine journalism, the magazine and breakfast shot was my aesthetic / R: Further proof of said aesthetic
3. I learned to enjoy my solitude. Coming home to a quiet and empty apartment was therapeutic. While preparing for the rest of my night I would embrace the silence, learn to be comfortable with listening to podcasts while doing the dishes, getting up on Saturdays to make pancakes. Many people would say to me doesn’t it get lonely and I would say not at all because I did not see it like that. I was alone yes, but not lonely.

4. I learned to be less dependent and needy for others. And that is one of the best things about adulting. I would make an attempt to put on pants and make lunch plans if I had been inside for too long but I wasn’t desperate for companionship. It was always there.

This place was my life. Lots of alone time spent here (before my friends realized I was the ultimate movie buddy)
5. My father said something once that always stuck with me. During my early 20s I spent an intensely lonely time. My sister was away or college and I would come home to an empty bedroom. I spent a lot of that time reading and watching shows. It was another kind of learning to be by myself because of the absence of a sibling. In that time my dad said: “In order to be good company, this loneliness is necessary.” This little bit of advice has stayed with me ever since. I think my “highest” point (which my mother would call the lowest) came when later I spent a five week long winter break holed up in my apartment literally Netflixing and chilling. Because it was below zero degrees and I did not know how to work my heater (yet) I was under three layers of blankets and consuming books and Orange is the New Black. My mother worried that I had not seen company for days but to be honest I didn’t mind at all. To be fair social media got me through this time because I was tweeting and instagramming constantly so it felt like I was connected to my friends back home. But overall, when I look back, I got to know, very intimately, the only person that matters: myself.

Random, pointless questions

Person who was your lifeline:
Miranda Metheny, my first friend from my program. She picked me up from the airport and remained my go-to person for everything.
Go-to food: Dominos Pacific Veggie Pizza
Favorite adulting hack: Tinned chickpeas will get you very far in life
Usual sleep time: 2 am (I was watching True Detective! Or completing assignments)

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When and where was I ‘adulting’? Lahore from 2011 to 2014
What was your living situation? Hostel living
How old were you? 21- 24 years
Totally stole that flower crown
Moving out to a hostel was such a good idea until the first night when this senior student shouted in my face to get the hell out of her sight. So much for new beginnings. Hostels can be noisy and uncomfortable. Ours would often struggle with sanitation or enough room for the people living there. But living in conditions that I was not used to, with other girls who weren’t my friends taught me some very valuable lessons.

1. I loosened up. I used to be shy, introverted and really bad at interacting with people. And a lot of that did not fare well with me when the senior girls at the hostel ragged all the freshmen 24/7. See, in the NCA hostel, you get ragged for the entire year. Not just the first few days, the entire year. This one time some seniors asked us to rehearse the most vulgar swear words that most of us didn’t even know the meaning of. A girl started crying, some protested, but being pulled out of my comfort zone somehow just helped me loosen up (I also learnt to stop being so uptight when I heard someone else swear).

2. I discovered how resilient I was. The hostel conditions were very poor and we had to deal with the water crisis and crazy heat waves without ACs. I remember it was so hot in the summer that my friends and I would take our blankets up on the rooftop and sleep on it under the stars. Around 5 am it became chilly enough for me to roll the blanket on top and continue sleeping for the next two hours till it was time to go to class. There is something so beautiful and memorable about that moment. Nothing can recreate it. I felt so sad about the conditions we lived in, but I also felt gratitude for the resilience within us to solve anything that came our way. 

Kudos to instant noodles for never letting us go hungry
3. Living with people made me less selfish. I didn’t mind sharing the same spoon I ate with. I even let my friends borrow my clothes, something I would have never done because I was previously so uptight.

4. There are many stereotypes surrounding a commune where there are all women, be it a school or a hostel. They are all wrong. What I learned in my four years is that here is a sisterhood which is always welcoming and for a short bubble of time it is that feeling we all crave: home. We bunked classes for each other, stayed up all night talking, shopped at weird hours for bug spray and so on. Being woken up by Pitbull blaring in the room next door wasn’t my kind of fun, but getting back by cranking up Avicci was the perfect revenge (then the power died so jokes on me).

5. There is something humbling about living with girls from all areas of Pakistan, ethnicities, class and backgrounds. I learnt how to be confident in my own skin, accept my flaws, own up to my mistakes and get a new perspective on life and situations. I learned to always look at both sides of a conflict, and most importantly mind my own business when a situation had nothing to do with me. 

Back when we didn’t know what a ‘resting bitch face’ was so we actually smiled because we were happy
Random, pointless questions

Person who was your lifeline: Kanzul Zaidi, my roommate
Go-to food: Bunpluster (egg and shami bun kebab) and tea
Favorite adulting hack: A sandwich toaster. Super fast snacks with ingredients thrown together – no need to cook, easy to clean. Fool proof.
Usual sleep time: 4 am (my friends were addicted to playing cards and would continue till one of us grew a conscience)
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When and where was I ‘adulting’? Karachi, through 2005 to 2011
What was your living situation? Multiple apartments, some years with roommates, some years alone
How old were you? 21 – 27 years
Me, working hard at the office. Bestest friend, stealing my sandwich.
I’ve documented my Karachi living alone situation quite a bit on the blog so I won’t do this to you guys again. But I’ll talk about the things I learned during that time that have lasted me forever.

1. Being your own SOS call. I believe in depending on people and I’m not the person who thinks that everyone should be alone and do everything by yourself blah blah. But I do believe that one should know with absolute affirmation that they can take care of themselves if there was a need. I truly learnt during my time in Karachi to sort my messes out myself. I had some incredible shit happen to me and it would throw me off, frustrate me, and then I’d remember that I trust myself and I’d handle it. This confidence gets me through everything in life.

Decentz at-home activitiez: Scrabble.
2. Managing money. Paying for everything yourself and then having responsibilities to financially care for others, is something that teaches you a lot about how to handle your money. The first year I found myself struggling with cash, one time in debt, and generally not in control of my finances. I quickly learnt how to manage my money, never go into debt/loans and help me do everything that I wanted to do – for myself, my family and the future.
3. Midnight deliveries are magic. True story.
In a shady cab in Turkey on a work trip with work friends. Yus.
4. Negativity will touch you if you let it. I’m a fairly positive person. I don’t complain, whine or find issues with most things. A big reason for that is specifically because I’ve seen some seriously screwed up things during my time in Karachi and faced some very questionable behavior and it just toughened me up. I quietly learned to never let it get to me because I had one thing in mind: my life and where it was going. A lot of people ask me how I handle negativity because of the blog now – I’ve handled way worse in real (you can imagine a single girl voluntarily living alone in an apartment in Pakistan, not even a paying guest situation, is a crime equivalent to manslaughter). It’s not right – I will never say negativity is acceptable – but on a personal level for myself, I decided very long ago that any crap coming towards me is never about me, it’s always about the other person. We all handle some kind of negativity in life, no matter where we come from or what we do, and knowing this simple thing works wonders.
Had a few friends over and N decided to make some magical coffee in the microwave for everyone. One cup at a time, like this.
5. You control your life. When you’re alone, you can do anything. I could hang out with anyone, I had no curfews, you can really do anything you want to do. When you suddenly don’t have the discipline of your parents or the structure of a typical life that family or living in a unit gives you, your life is in your hands to shape however. My dad emailed me once (he sent me so many emails, god) that he trusted me and I could do whatever I wanted but I should always be careful. I carry that email in my heart till today. Despite having all the liberties in the world, I always knew the kind of person I wanted to be. I controlled my life, I focused on my career, I worked hard, met terrible people and ditched them, met great people and I hung on to them. Having liberties can be an asset or a cancer. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I always remembered to use my freedom to my intellectual and emotional benefit and never to indulge in anything that wouldn’t add to me as a person. 

Random, pointless questions
Person who was your lifeline: Now-husband, then in the format of close friend/trusted human. And bffs Sumika and Mustafa.
Go-to food: McDonald’s
Favorite adulting hack: If you need anything, just go to Gizri. I don’t know if that still works, but I went there to find everything from an electrician, to a plumber, painter, emergency lock breaker, cheap frames maker, moving guy, everything. I had a problem, I’d just drive to Gizri and ask around.
Usual sleep time: 2 am (terrible, I know)

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Atiya and Amna are all about the good life. From books, sci-fi to pop culture and fashion, you can find them always talking and joking over a cup of tea. Find them on Instagram at @atiya107 and @amnaabbas and their blog at @blogthegoodlife. To read more about these girls, check out the meet the interns post.

Tell your adulting story? Until next time.

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Note: The winner of the Italy 3 nights giveaway is Zoya Shahzad Paracha.


  1. this was such a fun post! I totally loved reading all three perspectives. very eye-opening and truly life changing.

  2. you look so cute in your old pics!

  3. I live in Islamabad on my own with family and siblings scattered everywhere around the world. The experience has helped me so much on knowing what i really need to be happy in life, being self dependent and knowing to to fix my shit. Would recommend every girl to live at least a few months alone before moving onto some permanent events in life such as a marriage.

  4. I just loved it wow…. ?

  5. Had such fun reading this post but the highlight was n making microwave coffeee hahahahahaha masha Allah too cute

  6. Haha totally relatable. Makes me want to write about my own time away from home.

  7. This post is GOLD! I can completely relate to Amna's account as I myself have lived in a hostel for 4 years and loved every bit of it. Such precious memories and important lessons ufff!

  8. I had been on my own since I was 16 only. Went to hostel right after 10th grade, came to Dubai on my own with my own will, lived it to the fullest, learned A LOT, life had been so beautiful ever since. It's not that we don't face problems. We do, more than normal people but we just make them a lesson. 9 years on my own since teenage was huge. Hostel, then room to self, then apartment sharing, these things just make you realize how you deal with life your way and who you are in real, when not being watched by elders. That's all I have to say! Now when I am married, I have adjusted to this life so easily. This was the thing I feared the most but oh well, living on my own made me one hell of a sane being!

    Great post!

  9. Loved the post! Not because it talks about adulting from a female bachelorhood perspective but those who get married living in a very structured family also are told the same afterwards – 'beta, you are on your own so you have to pull through'. We need stronger women and less stereotyping and well lesser of 'log kya kaheingy'.

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