I love my parents. I’m just not sure I want to live with them.
I write this sitting at a desk in my childhood bedroom, surrounded by trenches of clothing. To one side are the things I wear everyday. On the other are clothes I’ve not worn in years. I’m doing a clean-out, because– for now, at least– I’m moving back in with my parents.
And they simply will not stop helping, offering lifts, carrying suitcases upstairs. It makes things easier yet infinitely worse. I was meant to be self-sufficient by now. It adds a veneer of guilt to everything, the need to demonstrate that I am working. I resist the urge to crash out on the sofa watching South Park at 2am. I get up early, try to buy my own groceries. So far I have not let my mother iron anything, though I have accepted lifts into town.
Being at home in your twenties makes what was once normal suddenly toxic. At a time when some half-baked semblance of adulthood has finally taken shape, accepting help is challenging but often necessary. Because the fact is a lot of us aren’t earning steady money yet, or even earning any money at all. And it’s not always out of laziness: if the world didn’t want me to do an undergrad and a postgrad in English literature and move into the ‘dying’ field of journalism, then why was I told to ‘follow my dreams’ so many times in Disney films growing up?
Sometimes it takes a while for dreams to pay, I suppose, or for you to trade in those dreams for something practical.
In my absence, the dog, Archibald, has claimed my bed as his own. He sleeps with his head on the pillow. When I pick him up and move him to the sofa he looks at me with baffled little eyes, asking why he’s being supplanted from his bed, his room. I get in and find the blankets coated in tiny pieces of foliage dragged in from the garden on his fur. It makes me sneeze. I contemplate giving my bed back to Archie, and moving to the sofa instead.
But he’s such a sweet little creature. The best thing about moving home is that we all get to see our dogs.
When I came home that other time, burned out and Prozac-ed after a year in London, a failure at my own meagre version of emigration experience, it was being around the dog that made me feel like a human again.
I’ve tried and failed at being a grown up so many times. It makes me wonder if adulthood is play acting, if I’ve even been an adult yet. I remember in college everyone learned to appreciate red wine and cook thai green curry and put on condoms correctly, as though these were hallmarks of adulthood. It did nothing to make graduation easier, being cast suddenly adrift.
Graduation gives only an illusion of adulthood. You take your certificate and run off to an entry-level corporate job in another country, and still end up alone late at night googling cheap Ryanair flights home. At least I did. For so many of my generation to be Irish is a transient thing, and moving home functions as part of that cycle.
I grew up in Dublin 6, lucky enough to have a twenty-minute walk from town. Moving out has to be worth it, somehow, and that leads to a curious double guilt: if you move out somewhere not worth it then you’re wasting money. But if you stay at home you’re a failure.
But what does a ‘millennial’ adult look like, anyway? Or does one even exist? The paragons of success we’re given are abrasive startup boy geniuses or confessional girl-women who make a virtue of how much they have got wrong. They’re needy, flamboyantly immature archetypes, dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood.
The overgrown child is never as charming in real life. My latest attempt at self-reliance was a joke: I lacked the patience to cook anything which took more than five minutes to prepare (this rules out all but the fastest-boiling grains and pastas. Quinoa? Par-boiled rice? NOT FAST ENOUGH…). I paid nothing off my student debt. I let dust gather on surfaces. I once tried to seduce someone into coming home with me by telling them I’d hoovered my room, as though this was some unimaginable luxury.
I get the feeling incompetence is baked into the millennial identity. We’re getting very good at some things– expressing ourselves, being creative and resourceful– but the basics are harder to master. I know how awful and spoiled this sounds. I just don’t think that I’m the anomaly.
The convenience of a kitchen stocked with proper cooking utensils and extravagant seedy bread, the kind that I am too stingy to purchase when left to my own devices.
The convenience of not living with people I’m not used to.
Convenience is a bitch.
Realistically I’ll be out again in a month or two, at least I tell myself. The thought of being this childishly dependent so far into my twenties is nauseating. I still don’t know if my inability to tick the boxes of adulthood is down to society, or my own personal failings. Or perhaps a mixture of both. There’s no class in school to prepare you for a nonsensical property market.
I suspect our generation will make peace with constant renting and accept this as normal, as they do in other European cities. Owning property for me feels like something guilty, potentially ruinous. You learn from the times you grow up in.
I stay awake long into the night, waiting for suburban quiet. In the house I’ve just moved out of, night belonged to beer cans and lurching visitors and Oasis albums played on repeat. My housemates were forever throwing parties. But here the house is quiet, and I can work.
It’s not about slacking off. It’s about being adaptable.
Some day my Daft alert will come. Until then, I’m happy here.