I have better life habits when I don’t live in my parents’ home

By Laura Gao • 6 min read
July 2023

I get out of bed at 12:47pm. I sit in front of my laptop and open a new Premiere Pro project on my brand new windows dual-install, but the blank timeline is uninspiring and the cabin is too dim and I don’t want to do this. I’m still half sleepy. “How do I feel more awake?” [1]

I go to the bathroom. I take out my retainer, I clean it, and I brush my teeth. The mint toothpaste is refreshing, leaving a coolness in my mouth, and I feel a bit more awake, maybe. I want to feel awake, so I also wash my face, then I even put acne cream on my face for good measure. (I’m “supposed” to be doing this every morning, but recent mornings I haven’t been doing this, and my acne doesn’t get worse when I don’t, so shrug, I put it on when I want to feel good about myself.)

Now that my retainer is off, that granola on the table looks enticing. I turn on the stove to heat some milk, but the milk pan has yesterday’s pasta in it, so I grudgingly grab the sponge. “I’ll just scrub it a little, enough to get rid of the noticeable pasta, then I’ll heat the milk, it’s okay if I don’t have this pan perfectly washed clean, I can drink milk with bits of pasta in it.” I start wiping it, but hmm if I’ve wiped off all the noticeable pasta then surely I can just scrub a few more circles and it would be completely clean. I put this pan aside, but hmm, now that my hands are already wet and a bit soapy, I might as well clean a few more pots… And before I knew it, I had washed the sinkful of dishes, half of which aren’t mine. (“But just one more dish!”)

I heat the milk. I boil some water. I fry two eggs. I pop a piece of bread in the toaster. 4 stoves, 3 are used. I’m juggling a circus. The gas stoves require a lighter to ignite each one. I’m proud that I’ve managed to wash all the dishes without touching cold water and worsening my cramp. [2]

I assemble the fried runny egg on top of my toast then the scrambled one beside. I wipe down the counter with a paper towel before eating.

“Be skeptical of people who act one way in front of you and another way when not in front of you.” Some Confucius teaching goes something like this. My dad says that however he observes my behavior at home, he assumes I’ll act this way when I’m outside the home.

At home, I am messy. My suitcase sat open and unpacked 8 days after I returned home, the unfolded clothes hanging out from the sides. I come downstairs when my mom calls me for dinner and go back up when I’m done eating. I put my dish in the sink, but I don’t help with cooking, don’t wash dishes, don’t even cut my own fruit.

I know that my parents think this is how I act when I live alone. I know. It makes total sense from their perspective. If I am this messy when I’m at home, how can I suddenly change when they aren’t watching me? If anything, I’d be worse when they aren’t watching me. I know how I’d sound like a hypocrite and a liar if I protested, so I don’t. I sit there, I smile, I nod, “yes yes yes this makes sense.”

But empirically. Idk. Empirically, this is exactly what happens. I am messy at home, but for some reason, when I don’t live at home, I tend to be better. I think about how my roommate would feel walking home to an empty sink, so I want to wash the dishes. I only leave my toothbrush out on the bathroom counter after she does. In the cabin, I have cooked for myself, 2-3x every day. [3]

By the time I finish eating, and put all my dishes in the sink, it’s like 2pm.

I don’t know why. Perhaps, when I’m living in a place where I’m paying rent, I feel more responsible. I’ve walked into this AirBnb the first day, when all the china dishes with ornate blue flowers were neatly snacked underneath the cutting board table, and the glasses were displayed on the rustic wooden shelf equidistant apart, as if they were relics on display at the Royal Ontario Museum. I want to leave this place just as good as I found it.

Driving home with Kerstin today, I told her that despite not getting much work done today, I felt proud that I was taking care of my lifestyle. <3

[1] Today is the second last full-day of the cabin, I need to get into the video-editing groove I need to I need to, after tomorrow I will be in Boston probably socializing and if I don’t already have momentum there’s no way that I’ll start it then. I can’t keep lying in bed. I can’t. I won’t live with myself if I paid $250 for this detox cabin and then waste it relaxing.

[2] When I touch or drink anything cold during my period I get cramps. It’s a dull yet strong pain that expands outwards slowly and you are completely helpless.

[3] Feels important to clarify it’s far from perfect. My electronics are left strewn out on the coffee table beside the couch, but so are my roommates’, so I think this is like mutually accepted as fine. (But yes I am lazy and it would take 5 mins to tidy them up.) At Kairos, I left my suitcase open and clothes on the floor around it. I was one of the messier people. I didn’t put in my contact lenses for the past week since I’ve left home.

identifying the thing of the day that you care the most about seems important. If you do that well and do literally nothing else well, you still feel good about today.

Steel wool literally wipes off so much stains off of metal pans. Like I got my egg stuck to the bottom of the pan, it was brown and almost burnt and disgusting. Sponge wiping, no good, still the entire bottom pan is brown. Then I scrubbed it back and forth twice with the steel wool and the whiteness of the pan showed through immediately.

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