Back Where It All Began:
Doing My Best to be an Adult While Living in My Childhood Bedroom
Whoever said “you can’t go home again” clearly never met a millennial.
(And, okay, I Googled it— it was Thomas Wolfe who said that, and the guy died in 1938… so of course he never met a millennial, but you get my point.)
I say this because all we seem to be able to do is “go home again,” oftentimes despite our very best efforts to be literally anywhere else.
Personally, I moved from the bustling metropolis of Grinnell, Iowa (population: 9,049) where I attended college, back to the deep suburbs of St. Louis. Some would call this a negligible difference, but I beg to differ. Now, I happen to stand by St. Louis as a criminally underrated gem of a city, but even I will not stand here and pretend that the particular neighborhood where I grew up— a labyrinthine series of unincorporated culs-de-sac wedged between Creve Coeur and Chesterfield, Missouri— has much to recommend it beyond a plethora of fast-casual dining options.
But it’s important to note that I didn’t move home with resentment and dread in my heart. Quite the opposite! The crescendo of graduating from Grinnell had, for me, been immediately followed by a whole lot of not-knowing-what-to-do-next-ness, so, all in all, I was content to go back home for a while and take some time to figure out what came next.
However, as I soon discovered, there is an unfortunate thing that happens when you are twenty-three and living at home… I suppose something of my adolescent-self must have seeped into my bedroom walls during my teen years, because immediately upon moving home I began acting like an incredibly bratty fourteen-year-old.
Never in my life (not even when I was actually fourteen) have I indulged in such eye-rolling, heavy signing, and generalized snotty-ness.
Mom asked me to do the dishes? WHATEVER, MOM.
Dad needed a ride to work while his car was in the shop? UG! GET A LIFE, DAD.
Who was this whiny, mealy-mouthed, dingus who had taken over my body? I didn’t recognize her, and I certainly didn’t care much for her attitude.
Going from feeling like a fairly together, competent, young adult in college to an ill-behaved toddler the very next month was a jarring transition.
All I know to say is that I had the vague feeling that there were things I needed to be doing, lots of things! What they were exactly, I couldn’t quite say. I mean, there were the obvious ones: Get a job. Find an apartment. Figure out this whole flossing thing. But I was also experiencing the ineffable sensation of falling behind my peers, the ones who were presumably out in the world doing all the adult things that I should have been doing while I was deleting malware off my mom’s computer. And every time I found myself vacuuming the steps or watering the front garden instead of doing those things, I got more and more frustrated that I was standing still when I wanted to be moving forward.
For a little context, you should know that this new reality of mine felt particularly unnerving because I’ve always considered myself to be someone with above-average parental relationships. My mom and dad are both pretty groovy people; case-in-point, they were both inexplicably proud of my hilarious, Fruit Loops liberal arts degree, and firmly believed I was going to find my way to a creatively fulfilling and financially stable life. But even if they had been grouchy nay-sayers, I hypothetically still should have been grateful that I had a free place to land in my jobless state. But I wasn’t. Instead I was pretty pissed off at both of them, all the time, for no reason.
I remember that mom kept asking me, in a tone of genuine bewilderment, “What is going on with you?” It’s true that she asked very little of me. I had basically no rules governing my behavior— Mom and Dad bought me food, took me to movies, and were generally very tolerant of my puberty-redux. So what was with the ‘tude?
Navigating my adult relationships with my parents has been its own unique snarl of emotional baggage, but you should know that I was trying really hard to problem solve while I was living at home: I was in therapy. I was having honest, feelings-related conversations with both my parents. I was consciously and intentionally setting healthy boundaries. And all of that was important and helpful, yet I found the ‘tude endured. Never underestimate the ‘tude.
Some of you savvy readers might notice that I’m telling you all of this in the past-tense, and that, my friends, is no coincidence. I write to you now from a place of much-improved stability and happiness—so what changed? I will tell you. Lean in close, and I will whisper in your ear the ingenious and highly nuanced secret of my success.
You need to move out.
Like, as soon as humanly possible.
I know, easier said than done. But, listen—you don’t need to land your dream job first. You don’t need to move into your dream apartment. You don’t even need to live in your dream city! Everyone seems to love the coasts, but maybe the solution is to give a mid-sized, Midwestern city a try, one that has affordable housing, a free art museum, and the largest urban park in the US… like, for example, St. Louis?? Just spit-balling here.
But whatever path presents itself to you, I shall reiterate my previous point: Girl, shove your underpants into a duffle bag and blow that popsicle stand.
Whether your parents are your laidback, casserole-making besties, or the mustache-twirling villains of a Roald Dahl novel—get the eff out of there.
I say this with such gusto mainly to assure you that the juvenile way you may be acting towards the mensch/mensches who raised you is normal. Not productive and certainly not attractive, but normal. You’ve got so much to do! You need to be dawdling in the grocery store, trying to decide between normal Goldfish and off-brand Shark Crunchies! You need to be strolling through art museum galleries and talking yourself out of inadvisable gift shop purchases! You need to be blending spinach into otherwise delicious smoothies and loving it except for the taste of spinach!
What no one told me was that the banal nitty-gritties of being an adult are actually some of the most rewarding parts, and most of them are sneakily very difficult to experience when you’re living under your parents’ roof. I do not say this to disappoint my fellow boomerang-ers further, but rather to say: I see you, I hear you, I validate you. You are acting like a dick right now, it’s true. But it’s not a reflection of you, it’s a reflection of the fact that living with your parents as an adult is really, really difficult. And when you’re finally able to leave, things will get better with breathtaking speed. It’s actually that easy, so keep your head up.