I was so eager to move out of my parents’ house when I was 17. And not just because I was a teenager and consequently a little shit prone to butting heads with Mom and Dad on a regular basis. It was more about the symbolic act of movin’ out. (Cue the Billy Joel.) I somehow got the notion that moving into my own place meant magically transitioning to adulthood, which—now that I look back on it—doesn’t make any sense. Whatever. You should never argue with a crazy mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mind.
My first semester at Berkeley was rough. It was my first time away from home. I was living in a crappy neighborhood. I guess I grew up in some ways, though that’s as much as a result of just being at college, which teaches you more practical life skills than employable abilities. I graduated in ’08, and I lingered—because where else was I going to go? I couldn’t afford to live elsewhere, and I couldn’t go home. These were both seared in my mind as absolutes. Even though I’d be saving money by returning to my parents’ house, as many of my friends opted to do, it was simply not an option.
What was I afraid would happen if I moved home? Because in my mind, it was as impossible as breathing underwater or sitting through a Sofia Coppola movie without taking a nap break. I think what it comes down to is the perception of failure—whether that means believing that I have failed, or believing that everyone else will think that I have failed. I don’t make this judgment when it comes to others, but I hold myself to different (sometimes unreasonable) standards. If I were to return home, the act of moving out would become retroactively meaningless. This whole time I thought I was moving forward, I was really moving in a circle.
Obviously I have changed my opinion, because I am in the process of (temporarily) moving back home. I don’t think of myself as a failure—though I don’t think of myself as particularly successful either. Realistically, I am on a good career trajectory, but a lot of where I end up will depend on luck, and the right opportunity coming along at the right time. Or maybe winning big in Vegas, if I get bored and decide to take up gambling. So what’s the big deal about living with my parents while I try to take the next step?
If I break it down, there is nothing wrong with moving back home, especially since I refuse to let this become a permanent situation. (My parents are great, but we don’t really need to be subjected to each other all the time.) That doesn’t mean I’m not feeling some anxiety, which perhaps goes without saying. It’s one thing to reduce my decision to the pros and cons, and discover that yes, living with my parents until I find work in LA is the smartest course of action. But I’m still embarrassed when people confront me about it. “Are you going to live with your parents?” they ask. To which I’m forced to reply, somewhat sheepishly, “Yeah—for now, at least.” I don’t actually think anyone is judging me, but projecting my judgments onto them still makes me feel pretty awful.
I can tell people I’m moving home, but it has to be with that asterisk. Otherwise they might think I’m a bum, or that I think I’m a bum, which is maybe just as bad. Perhaps in the future I’ll just link them to this blog post: “Yeah, I am moving back in with my parents, and I do have some reservations. Read about them here!”
Even after reading this—or for me, writing it—I’m not sure my anxiety makes any more sense. I get that, in this economy (magic words!) temporarily living with one’s parents is a viable and often smart decision. I also know I can’t ever get past these feelings of apprehension, because symbolically, the act of moving back home is still problematic. I guess I just have to accept it as a thing I’m doing, and move forward accordingly. If I want to be an adult, I have to act like an adult—and that’s something I can do from anywhere. Of course, living under the same roof with my parents might mean I have to try that much harder.