As the few people who read this blog so far probably already know, I’m 23 and living with my parents. This isn’t really a bad thing: I’m one of the multitudes of young adults just out of college who need to save a little money up. Most of the people I know went through (or are currently in) this stage of life, so I’m not embarrassed by it. I get along well with my parents, I keep about 80% of my income to save and/or spend as I need, and overall it’s not a bad situation to be in. Sure, there’s a stigma that comes with living at home, but at my age I know enough people in this spot that it doesn’t bother me much.
So why, you ask, am I absolutely desperate to move out? Why not live with my parents a few more years and bypass that stage of awkward poverty altogether? Why dig into your savings when you’re cutting back on major expenses like that?
Because of compartments.
It’s a well-known fact that people compartmentalize their lives. Everyone shows different faces in different worlds: who you are at work is different than who you are alone, who you are with your friends, who you are around your grandparents. And any college student can tell you that visiting home while you’re away is a bitch, especially that first trip. You’ve spent a month, a week, however long being on your own and free, and then you come back and get forced into that high-school dynamic of Child/Parent, and it’s the first of many incidents where (hopefully) you remake your relationship into a healthy adult dynamic.
So living at home after school, which so many people wind up doing, can be incredibly emotionally draining. Most college students seem to understand this: it’s a temporary measure and you likely have to give up your freedoms. A lot of parents, though, don’t: empty-nesters seem to expect their kids to come back unchanged even when, intellectually, they know that’s not going to happen, and I’ve heard a lot of friends complain about the “My roof, my rules” phrase. There are all sorts of developmental-psych problems there that I’m sure I could go into, all sorts of anecdotes I could bore you with. I have lots of opinions on parent/child relationships.
But let’s say the new graduate goes home and, like me, doesn’t really have to deal with all that. My parents and I get along great: it was a joke while I was in school that I’d have to bug them to call me. They gave me a lot of space and support to figure out the whole on-my-own thing while I was gone (1000 miles away, halfway across the country), and when I came back they readily got to know the new person that I am. There were a few jokes about how I actually cleaned my room and did my dishes, but for the most part it’s been a pretty smooth transition. So once again: why the problem?
It’s my parents’ house. And I’ve lived in that household all my life. Despite those changes, despite all that formative experience, when I come home at night I’m still sleeping in my high-school bedroom. I’m still eating dinner in my high-school kitchen, still looking at pictures of me as a kid on all the walls. So even though they’re fine with me coming home at one in the morning, I still feel the need to text them and let them know I’ll be late. Even though they don’t care if I’m dating someone, I can’t exactly ask a significant other to spend the night. My stuff in the kitchen is confined to one cabinet; most of my actual possessions are in boxes in the garage and have been for over a year.
Even in the best parent-child relationships a person could ask for, this takes its toll.
And I know people who don’t have a good relationship with their parents. Or they never found their way into an adult one.
The need to move out has nothing to do with how much I love my parents. Or the desire to move in with a bunch of friends and eat nothing but hot dogs and Oreos (ah, college). Nor is it driven by the need to move to a city or a faraway place– though don’t get me wrong, that desire is there. I need to move out because I’ve grown beyond this place: even in my parents’ five-bedroom house I feel cramped, suffocating.
Who I am beyond these walls is different than who I am inside them.