Confessions of an Adult Child at Home
I have a confession to make: I am twenty-eight years old, and I live with my parents. I am going to pause a moment to let that sink in.
What sort of images came to your mind when you read that sentence?
If the criticisms of my generation on the internet reflect a majority opinion, you probably pictured a lazy, spoiled brat mooching off her parents, sitting in her pajamas at noon, surfing the internet and perhaps desperately trying to earn enough money off her hubpages account so that she doesn't have to get a "real" job. You may believe I spend my days lazing around the house, and my nights out partying. You may imagine me to be unemployed and not actively seeking, lacking her own car, a clueless little girl in a grown woman's body who has never had to fend for herself in her life.
You may pity my long-suffering parents, but you may also make assumptions about them. You may be thinking, "Well, that's what comes from trying to be a friend rather than a parent." You may assume that if they were tougher on me growing up, they wouldn't be supporting me now. You may shake your head at the idea that they don't charge me rent, and you may be saying to yourself, "They are going to be supporting that brat forever!"
You also may expect what follows here to be a defense of my entire lazy, entitled generation, an extended whine about student loans and how the job market is really hard, no job pays enough, and unpaid internships are an unspeakable injustice.
Well...the truth is, I am burdened with more student debt than my parents ever had, the job market is difficult, I worry about my ability to save enough, and I do think unpaid internships are terrible things. But I am not really writing this to defend those opinions, and I cannot speak for my entire generation. All I really intend to do is defend myself, and my parents, and perhaps encourage you not to generalize when you hear about people who in their twenties and thirties are living with their parents.
My father once said that my generation is lucky to have graduated college and entered the job market when we did. Not because the job market was good. It was and is quite the opposite, but my father speculated that I would be savvier than his generation because I would not be able to mistake luck for skill, and thus, we would never be blindsided by a future economic downturn. A rather optimistic outlook, I think. But his words have stuck with me.
I was born in 1986. I am considered an early millennial. I can remember a time before the internet, and I have been told that my generation is the last that will be able to do so. My parents are late baby boomers, born in 1957 and 1958. Because my grandfather was a dean at a university, my father got free college tuition. My mother did not quite have a free ride in college, but grants were extremely generous, and her debt, owed to her father, was only a couple thousand dollars. I won't reveal how much debt I had after college, but it was far more than either of my parents.
For awhile, I had been planning to attend massage school after getting my BA, but after a discussion with my parents, I agreed to get a job and work for a year or so to save some money first so that I could pay the tuition myself.
My first job out of college was as a records tech in a doctors' office. Luck had a lot to do with my getting that job. My mother worked at the central business office for the network, and had previously been the office manager at the office to which I was applying. She had hired the woman who hired me, and many members of the office staff had known me since I was in middle school.
At the time, I was dating a man ten years my senior. He did not agree with my living at home until after massage school. In spite of the fact that I had no car, which would severely limit my housing options if I intended to work in the suburbs and go to school in the city, in spite of having to pay for school myself, he believed I should get out of my parents' house right away, even if it meant putting my long-term plans at risk. There were many reasons why the relationship fell apart, but this was one of the major things on which we disagreed.
After massage school
I have not always lived at home. After massage school, I moved from Chicago to Savannah, Georgia, to live with my best friend, who was pursuing her master's degree. I lived there for a year and a half. While I was down there, I worked at a local day spa. The work was plentiful and the money was good. But I missed my family and my Chicago friends. So did my roommate. While we were home for the holidays, we discussed the possibility of moving back. We both had family and friends in Chicago, I had business contacts, and she might have more opportunities to teach if she decided to pursue that path.
We decided to give it another year, though. I had a good job in Savannah, and I wanted to get some money put aside. I had also turned twenty-six recently, and I was now paying for my own health insurance. I wanted to make sure I could continue to do so while I was looking for a job in Chicago, and neither of us wanted to live at home any longer than necessary.
Life, however, sometimes throws you lemons. When the spa's management changed hands shortly after my roommate graduated, I was let go rather suddenly. This was quite a blow to my confidence. As my job was the biggest anchor for both of us, and because we wanted to remain roommates, we agreed to move up our plans to move back to Chicago. Both our parents were willing to let us move back home while we sought out income and a place to live. We agreed that as long as our families were willing, it was better to live with them a few months than move into any place we hadn't seen beforehand.
Our initial plan gave us several months to get organized. Our landlord did not think it would be a problem for us to extend our lease by a few months. Unfortunately, some miscommunication between the landlord and the building owner led to a fiasco that ended with me subletting to a temporary roommate and moving back sooner than expected whilst my friend stayed in the apartment an extra six months.
I moved back home in August of 2012. I got to work on my application for an Illinois license, and hunted for a part-time job. I went through several interviews, and almost accepted two questionable sales jobs. By January 2013, I landed a part-time office job. By February, I had my Illinois license, and by March, I had a part-time job in my career field.
One of the most common complaints I hear about millennials is that we are lazy and lack motivation. I work two jobs. I work six or seven days out of every week. My regular days off only come once every other week. I help around the house, as well. I don't like cooking, but I can clean the heck out of any room I set out to clean.
I am also told that we are entitled. Some blame it on the parents who "coddled" us and gave us trophies for participation. While it is true that I got a participation trophy when I played basketball, I certainly recognized the difference between that trophy and the second-place championship trophy my team had gotten the year before. I also recognized the difference between an ensemble role in a play and the lead. I always wanted the lead. I always wanted the first-place trophy. But I learned to be a team player, too. And I learned not to demand absolute perfection from myself, because I am only human. Believe me, that has come in handy whilst I've been living at home.
I have offered to pay my parents rent. Most people seem to assume I would be offended by the idea of paying rent to live in the room I grew up in. But I offered. My parents declined. If I did not work, my father told me, it would be different. If I were home all day and spending all my money on clothes, they might not be comfortable with me living there rent-free. If I did not help around the house, they would want to get something else out of having me here. But I work, and I help. And they would rather I save my money so that I am able to get out on my own sooner.
I have heard that we have a poor work ethic. It seems that people put this down my generation wanting a better work-life balance than past generations. I honestly do not know if this is a generational thing. Perhaps we are more educated about the effects of stress. I know that as a massage therapist, I was taught in school the necessity of self-care and of not putting profit above all. Overwork in my profession leads to burnout, which leads to injury, illness, depression, and anxiety. That is why I will not take more clients than my body can handle. That is why I will shift my schedule to something more manageable if the opportunity arises. My mother sometimes worries about the financial impact of such decisions. And the truth is that I do, too. But I want to continue to work for a long time.
I am a millennial.
I am twenty-eight, and I live with my parents.
I have a bachelor's degree and a massage therapist's license.
I am not married, I have no children.
I do have a car, and I pay the insurance.
I also pay for my own health insurance.
I have more student debt than either of of my parents did at my age.
I work two jobs.
I have offered to pay my parents rent, and they have declined.
I work hard for what little I make. I struggle to maintain a balance between work and life. I love my chosen career and I want to advance in it. I want to get out on my own. Get married. Have a family. Buy a home. Pay off my debt. But I refuse to hate myself for not having achieved those goals just yet. I refuse to be ashamed of where I am at this point in my life. And I am grateful to my parents for never making me feel ashamed of needing a little help. For never trying to show me "tough love" when it would have been the worst thing for me.
Thank you, Mom and Dad. I love you both.