Why I had to move back with my parents to really see the world

I’m not a mumbler by nature, but when someone asks me where I live, the words get a bit jumbled. There’s the storage space in Los Angeles. The near-constant traveling. And the room in the house in the suburbs. My parents’ house. Um, hi. I live with my parents. Have been for the last three years.

Moving back home wasn’t motivated by any of the usual factors—there was no bad breakups or financial crises. If anything I had finally hit my stride in my career and as an adult. But after a year in a building that was formerly sheltered a prostitution ring (a decision I was not aware of when I signed my lease), I was ready for a change. Not willing to let their only daughter leap out of the housing frying pan and into the homeless fire, my mom and stepfather made a kind offer: Move back in for a few months until you find your new dream home.

I took them up on it, a decision that was immediately followed by a severe bout of mental gymnastics. I’m in my thirties. I can and should pay for my own place, right? What do my friends think? What do my parents’ friends think? And what if I want to walk around in my underwear? (Or finally overcome my “never nude” tendencies and start walking around in my underwear?)

But a funny thing happened while I was holed up in my childhood bedroom, turning over the thoughts that a large chunk of millennial have already smeared with their fingerprints. (According to the Pew Research Institute 36 percent of women and 43 percent of men ages 18-34 live at home.) Life happened. That March, I attended SXSW. That April my best friend flew in from London, and when she suggested a road trip during the height of the gas crisis, I practically raced her to my car. By that summer, thanks to my newfound freedom of not having to pay rent, not worrying about a roommate, and not having an apartment, I had said yes to so many things that I ended up working in Europe for a month.

Still even while I was on the other side of the world, I couldn’t help but feel somehow “less then.” I was an adult, feeling guilty because I had a mother at home who couldn’t wait to greet me with a sandwich and hear about my travels, and a stepfather who checks the weather at each one of my destinations and give me packing advice. Was I doing it wrong? Shouldn’t I be suffering more? Would I be used one day as a case study of the most ungrateful generation?

It took saying it out loud to realize how foolish I was being. Late one night in Warsaw my frustrations bubbled to a head and I unloaded on a friend. In return, he asked two simple questions. “Do you get along with your parents?” (I nodded my head, mentally categorizing all the ways they had gone above and beyond on the whole parenting thing.) “Is living with them allowing you to lead the kind of life you want to lead?” (I was in Poland…this was a given.)

His advice? “Don’t worry about it. You’re lucky.”

I am lucky. It’s a major privilege to get along with your parents as an adult. And even more so that they’ll let you live under their roof, and turn what was their spare room for the better part of decade into a combination bedroom/workspace/warehouse/mad scientist lair. Bonus: being what my mother refers to as her “part time daughter” has allowed me to see the world in a way I never thought possible. (This year alone I’ve been to Norway, Estonia, Sweden, Netherlands, Poland, Germany, France, Finland, Canada, and Iceland.)

And I know it won’t always be this way. For all her acceptance, I did come home from a recent trip to discover my mother had installed bright purple curtains in my room, a move I suspect was meant to indicate that the hospitality clock was ticking. But for now, I’m not only lucky, I’m thankful. Where I live isn’t such a difficult question, even if I usually fail to articulate it in all its complexity. Maybe it would help if I had you over for a cup of tea? Don’t worry, if I’m not there, my parents will let you in.

[Image via MGM]

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