December 24, 2003
Use Your Bootstraps
For More People in 20's and 30's, Home Is Where the Parents Are [Tamar Lewin, NYT, 12/22/03] - This article really ticked me off. I know the economy sucks, I know it's not a given that you'll identify your career goals by the time you get out of school. The first job out of college or the job that you take because you get to do what you love may not pay enough for you to support yourself on your own, especially if you live in a big, expensive city. Bad things can happen which make moving back in with one's parents the only viable option. But it's supposed to be temporary, not go on for years and years!
What I don't understand is how people can trade their pride in themselves, their independence, in order to live "at home." In my case I fiercely cherished the autonomy and privacy I gained while being away at school (on scholarship, which I earned by being a neurotic overachiever). It was miserable to come back and live with my parents again - I had no career goals, not even a car to get myself to interviews, let alone to visit friends. To cope I zoned out on the Internet, living in chat rooms and discussion groups.
Until I could support myself, I did not feel like an adult; living at home just reinforced that feeling. It didn't help that one of my sisters would bitchily remind me that my room was really the guest bedroom, so I was really just an unwanted guest in my family's house. I finally snapped out my funk to find a job, any job, that would get me out of the house, that would allow me to save up and move out. Eventually I did - the salary was horrible, but there was plenty of overtime. More importantly, the job helped me to recover my identity and self-respect; at work I was treated as a professional, as an adult. I didn't have to be the surly teenager living with my parents and sisters in the suburbs. As soon as I saved up enough money, I found an apartment with my friend Marco as a roommate, and I packed up and moved out. I was determined never to live with my family again. For my troubles - for not asking for permission, for their blessing; for not wanting or needing their financial support; for living with a roommate who was a guy - my parents stopped speaking to me for months.
I'm sure other people have much better relationships with their parents. But even so, if you have any respect for yourself, why would you remain dependent on your family and still live at home? It's not easy to figure out and then to get started in one's career. Housing isn't cheap - you may have to live with roommates for a long time. You're not settled down, you may not be married or have kids - but does that mean you should move back in with your parents (that is, if they even want you to come back home)? The path of least resistance isn't necessarily the best. Try to figure out what you want, then do something about it!