As a teenager, a gleeful line I heard from my dad was that when I turned 18, it would be high time for me to move out. Looking back, I still doubt it was that much of a joke as much as it was an ingrained cultural expectation.
I wonder what he’d say now to the more than half of young adults boomeranging back to live at home.
According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of 18- to 29-year-olds are back living with their parents since COVID-19 cases began spreading early this year, surpassing the previous peak during the Great Depression era. (It can’t be just me thinking it’s depressing that we’re comparing more and more of our current lived experiences with those during the Great Depression, right?)
My dad would solidly be a boomer if he were still alive. He was a classically individualistic American and sold me on the value of having a life filled with boot-strapping stories. He joined the military young to get out of Detroit and away from his family.
He also graduated high school a touch early, at 17, so before the military, he had a stint lying on the hood of a truck in Nebraska for hours, helping to mark fields for crop dusters. That type of loneliness sounded somewhat epic to me, something perfect for a memoir.
When I graduated high school, I was funneled immediately into college in order to not lose scholarship money. The university was about six hours away from home. I hoped it would be the start of my boot-strapping stories.
However, even as an only child, one solidly OK with being alone for long stretches of time, I remember early college being a lonely experience. And more than just being lonely, it was boring. It certainly didn’t feel very epic to sit in calculus class at 8 a.m.
My mom remembers that as much as we were both ready for me to leave for college — partially due to life timing but also to a friction against what she hoped for me and my aimless nature — she remembers me being a steadfast caller, checking in with her at least once a week, if not more.
Thinking back, it was more the lack of connection to a new place that drove me home, even if it was just via a phone line. Turned out that, for me, there was nothing like the mundane narratives of my parents’ lives that could bring a comforting background chatter to my own life.
I didn’t realize their value to ground me until I didn’t have it. So, yes, I called to hear about the dogs, what happened at her job and new projects with which my dad was puttering around. It kept me grounded and connected — and secure, as I did eventually branch out and start creating my own epic stories for the memoir.
As much as I feel bad for the younger crowd — I never did move back home (curiously for our culture, my mom moved in with me, but that’s another story) — perhaps it still may hold a hidden silver lining.
Even if there will be fights fraught about curfew, or even about paying rent, it may lend young adults a sense of renewed connection to return to a community they remember but might see with fresh eyes. They may decide to plant new ideas and be poised for not only creating themselves but recreating what it means to be home, and what it means to write that first adult chapter of their lives.
— Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter: @TheCMcClure. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.