What I wish I knew before I left home
During my sophomore year of high school, my life’s mission became to leave home. Not because my parents were awful (they’re wonderful, which I didn’t fully realize until I moved away). Not because my sisters drove me insane on a daily basis by stealing my clothes (OK, maybe this contributed a little). Rather, I was seized by a powerful, all-consuming desire to leave boring old Houston, Texas, which seemed so close-minded and stifling to me I could scream. And I occasionally did scream, while muffling myself with a pillow.
I decided that the best way to tunnel out of Houston was via college. Suddenly, getting an A in chemistry was of the utmost importance. I joined everything: Animal rights groups, Spanish Club, Art Club, and something called Tri Theta, which was basically a prelude to sorority life, where we painted colorful signs and baked cookies for the football players every week. This was a huge stretch for me. I preferred hiding in a corner and reading poetry to cheering at football games. But I desperately I wanted to GTFO, and delivering baked goods and painting signs was all part of my master plan.
And I did get out. I moved all the way to Los Angeles and never looked back. Sometimes I do regret leaving Texas and my parents and sisters. Sometimes I miss Tex Mex, or people who don’t question the use of that wonderful, functional word, “y’all.” There are definitely things I wish I knew before I joined Tri Theta and lost sleep over chemistry tests and left home for the West Coast.
These are the things I learned later.
Your parents magically get cooler
When you leave home, your parents are suddenly much less annoying. It’s amazing. Since they’re not on your case 24/7 about cleaning dishes or turning off the TV, you can actually become friends with them. Maybe you and your parents are BFFs already, but I wish I’d know how cool my parents were and how much I would miss them before I left home. I don’t regret leaving (Houston is very humid and flat), but I did start appreciating my parents much more when I left. I wish I’d done that earlier.
Saying goodbye to your sibling can be dramatic
Remember that scene in The Color Purple, where sisters Celie and Nettie are torn apart, and crying and gripping onto poles and clawing at things to try and stay together? It’s heart-wrenching. Separating from my sisters was exactly like that. Physically we just stood there hugging for about twenty minutes, but emotionally it was The Color Purple. I wish I knew how hard it would be to leave them, but then again I never had to worry about them stealing my clothes again. Plus, they can come visit you, and your time together is precious. You don’t take the relationship for granted.
Foods you took for granted are suddenly delicious
I never had dreams about jalapeno poppers or migas before I left home, but once you’re far away, certain foods take on an almost mythic quality. Frito pie (delicious), Blue Bell ice cream (orgasmic), and Texas caviar (amazing) are all things I pine for. You can make the foods you crave wherever you are usually, but they just taste better at home.
You’ll miss your future nieces and nephews
If you think missing siblings is hard, try missing nieces and nephews. It’s awful. Suddenly there are these adorable little people that you adore, and you get to see them a few times a year, plus the occasional FaceTime call, which they usually accidentally disconnect after two minutes with their precious fat fingers. I wish I’d thought about that before I left. The plus side is that you might just travel home more often once they’re around. And you get to be the cool aunt or uncle they can visit in California or New York or Paris one day.
You’re giving up the world’s best babysitters
Babysitters are expensive; grandparents are cheap. If you move away and have kids, you might not have the support system you’d have at home. I never thought about that in high school because I was too fixated on escaping. Now, I hear about my sisters driving a few blocks to drop their kids off with our parents for the night and I wonder if they were smarter to stay put.
Flying home for Thanksgiving is the worst
Flights are more expensive, security lines are out the door, and everyone is stressed. Flying home for Thanksgiving will become your worst nightmare if you leave home, and that’s only a minor exaggeration. In fact, I don’t even fly home during that time anymore. I’d rather go for someone’s birthday or Hanukkah or St. Patrick’s Day. The upside is Friendsgiving, where you just have a potluck T-Day with your friends and drink wine and talk about how happy you are that there’s zero family drama.
You can go home again, but it’s tough…
When I was laid off a few years back, I seriously contemplated moving back to Texas. Rent was so much cheaper, I’d save money, and mom and dad had a washing machine that didn’t take coins. Once you leave and establish roots somewhere with career and friends, it’s harder to go home. It’s not impossible, but it’s not an easy decision. I wish I’d known that before I bolted. Still, it is always an option, and sometimes it’s the best option, so that’s comforting.
If I’d have known all these things, I’m not sure it would have stopped me from leaving home since I was pretty determined. But there is a chance it would have kept me a little closer, so I could hang out and eat Blue Bell ice cream with my niece on a weekly basis, without having to jump on a plane. There are plenty of great reasons to leave home (freedom, independence), but I wish I’d known that one day, I might just look back and wonder.
(Image via iStock)