Today marks one year since I packed up my little rented attic room, left my twenty-something lifestyle behind and moved back home to live with my parents.
Although I’d planned it a month before, this day came as something of a shock. When I was living away at university, I had no intention of ever properly living at home again. I am, and always have been, a very independent person. I like to have freedom to go where I like without answering to anyone, I like to have time on my own and, selfishly, I’m not always in the mood to speak to other people. I like to have the remote and wander around in my ‘I heart NY’ t-shirt and pants and make cheese toasties at 2 in the morning if I feel like it. I am not an ideal candidate for living at home.
However – the fact is, living at home (if you are in a position to do so) is one of the best ways to save a large amount of money in a short time. I have my endlessly understanding parents to thank for the fact that I even have a semblance of a plan to travel this year. By letting me commandeer their house and fridge, they have enabled me to pay off my debts, get the new Macbook I was desperate for and begin to put money away in my travel fund. Basically, I would never have been able to do this otherwise – when I rented I couldn’t even afford food half the time, never mind a Macbook and saving for travel, or anything else, was a distant dream.
Remembering this has been a vital part of surviving this year back at home – my parents were generous enough to let me and my midnight toasties invade their lovely house, absolutely rent free. As far as I see it it is my job to be as agreeable and unobtrusive as possible.
That said, I believe that any person in their twenties who has lived with their parents for any length of time will be familiar with the challenges and mixed emotions that are involved.
I had trouble initially with my own conceptions of what it meant to be an adult living at home, and how that made me feel about myself. There is still a certain level of shame in admitting that you live at home I think; it’s an admission you mumble to new acquaintances before quickly changing the subject. Put simply, it feels like a failure.
Then there’s the relationship with your parents to consider. The dynamic has shifted; where once you demanded cuddles and plasters and cake for breakfast you now demand space, distance and the understanding that you will do what you want, when you want, because you are an ADULT.
Except you don’t feel like an adult.
You feel like shouting ‘just leave me alone!’ – before promptly storming off to your childhood bedroom and slamming the door. Really mature, I know. But trying to find that new balance in the relationship with your parents seems to provoke a level of regression previously reserved for Christmas holidays, when you lie around in your pajamas winding each other up.
My first few months back at home were the hardest, with no job to go to initially, and a lot of time spent on Facebook analysing how much more fun everyone was having than me being ‘proper’ twenty-somethings who didn’t spend their evenings watching University Challenge with their Dad. It doesn’t help that we live in the godforsaken arse-end of nowhere and I don’t have my own car, so actually getting anywhere is pretty difficult.
But, over time, we fell into a pattern of living that works. We re-learned each others habits and preferences and triggers, and as humans invariably do, we adapted. And I got over myself. So what if this period of my life is different from how I imagined it? I’m here because I’m aiming for something bigger and it really doesn’t matter what someone else thinks about that. And guess what, I actually LIKE University Challenge – deal with it.
My brother was home over Christmas and told me how lucky I was to have the opportunity to spend this time with Mum and Dad as an adult, because a lot of people don’t get that – and he’s so right. I am incredibly lucky, and extremely grateful.
And as much as it may have felt like a step backwards at first, really this stint at home is another, necessary step towards my future.