There is no denying that whether you are renting or buying your first house, you have taken the huge step out of childhood and have ended up vulnerable and confused in the dog-eat-dog adult world.
When renting your first house, chances are the spot on your doormat by the letterbox will be full of flyers, takeaway menus and post for people you’ve never met. As you sift through the rubbish, discarding anything that’s not pizza vouchers, you come across something that shocks you to your core. A bill.
As you get quite excited yet nervous about the prospect of becoming an adult, your hands shake as you tear open the EDF envelope. It’s red. Apparently, you owe £176.97 for your gas and electricity usage and are overdue in paying. Surely not! Already? You wince as you glance to the floor, where you suddenly see three more letters from EDF. Bill, bill, bill. As if life has just taken a 180 degree turn, living in the house now seems a lot more terrifying and a lot less fun and games.
Over the next few weeks, you open bill after bill. The only thing that’s keeping you sane is the lucky fact that your university, college or school taught you the best way to budget, how to pay a bill and what to do in a financial crisis, as well as teaching you important life skills, like understanding jargon and how to deal with it, knowing how to fix the fuse when it blows and how to reset a fire alarm when you burn your toast.
Oh wait. That definitely didn’t happen.
It’s not as though these things only happen to certain people in certain houses in certain situations, these are things that every single person who is even considering living in a house will go through. How to use a boiler. What not to put in the microwave. Bog-standard, obvious, blatant, only-idiots-would-do-this things that leave no margin for error.
What befuddles me is the means by which young people are flung into Real Life. Sending them off from home, armed with tins of beans and some bathroom bleach to halls or some equivalent seems like satisfactory preparation for living in the big bad world, where actually, anything that does go wrong is on the head of the young person. How are these inexperienced adults supposed to immediately adapt into becoming fully fledged, fully responsible grown ups without being given any guidance about how to go about it?
I imagine it would make a lot of sense for secondary schools, universities, colleges or even ‘Which?’ magazine to do “An Idiot’s Guide To Life” or at least explain some of the obvious things that every person needs to know when moving into their first house. How to pay a bill, what the charges mean, what VAT is, how to set up a direct debit, how to budget. These and many others are all fundamental skills that are imperative to know before you can even consider living in a house, because if you get them wrong, there are no second chances. If you don’t pay a bill on time, or you pay the wrong amount, or don’t stick to the requirements of a particular contract, you could seriously affect your credit rating or become enemies with the bank.
To avoid any embarrassment on the phone to Virgin Media when trying to work out what a SuperHub is, let there be, at some point in the future, a Life Manual that metaphorically holds your hand through all the new experiences that come with growing up. We could all do with some help.