The other week a person I admired, thought of as a friend, went on a spree of meme sharing. But not the funny sort. Not to me, anyway. These memes all said if you still lived with your parents over twenty-five you were a massive failure and a waste of space. One of them mentioned how at least you don’t have to explain yourself to your parents because they already know you’re a failure.
I’ve never hit the unfollow button so fast in my life. This is a source of low mental health with me anyway. I, like most people who have to live with their parents long past the time where others think you should, will know it’s something many of us feel ashamed about. Every time I have to say ‘I’m grabbing a lift back home with my mum’ I feel physically sick. Am I still seventeen?
There’s an assumption that people who live with their parents are layabouts. People who just can’t be bothered to sort their life out and are a huge burden on society/ waste of good planet space. A lot of people, though, actually choose to live at home forever. There are even celebrities rolling in cash who stay living with their parents. They’re happy that way. Or others are disabled, whether it be a visible disability or a hidden one, and can’t live alone for health reasons. Not to even get into any of the other reasons one might choose to stay at home. But I can only speak from my own experiences.
I did not choose this.
I’ve always been an incredibly independent person and have dreamed of living on my own since I was a child (well, I used to dream of living with a husband, but I quickly grew out of that idea!). Life took several twists, turns, and plummets though. Namely, I’m not quite as intelligent as I tried to be, and my career choice is to become an author…possible the least financially lucrative career I could have gone after. The ‘penniless writer’ stereotype didn’t happen by accident. Therefore, at several points in my twenties the choice has been this lovely four bed house in Cornwall with a hot shower and food (which I do not get for free, by the way), or it was homelessness. Pretty obvious choice, huh?
I first moved out when I was eighteen. The moment I was able to. I didn’t just stay around the corner, either. I buggered off to Aberystwyth in Wales—nine hours away from home. I went from seeing my family every day to every four months, and I was honestly fine with that. I graduated university after three years, however, and moved back home. The plan was it would only be for a few weeks, but several things didn’t work out and it ended up being two years. I moved out again at twenty-two. Again it didn’t work out. My mental health and finances were at the lowest they had been (at that point, anyway) and I moved back home after another two years. This time, though, as I embarked on my master’s degree, I was certain I’d be back on my own again soon. Determined.
That was three years ago. Despite the desperation clawing at my insides, despite the interviews and job applications and late nights lying awake worrying, I’m still here.
Surprise, moving away is not as easy as it appears in movies. You can’t just step off the train in your dream city and miraculously find yourself bumping into the CEO of your dream company, where you end up working about two hours a week so work doesn’t interfere with the rest of the plot, and move straight into a central penthouse you can somehow afford on an intern salary.
Phew. Those films really can get in the bin.
That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? All over the media it’s made to look easy to afford living on your own. Yes, you might have the odd stumble, but you’ll always end up with that promotion or dream job in the end, right? It’s made to look as though anyone who lives with their parents truly is monumentally lazy. They’re only good for a joke in a romcom. But there are so many reasons someone might live at home. So many reasons that aren’t, in fact, anyone else’s bloody business.
Yet, we still have this idea all people living with their parents are wanking to video games in a basement while refusing to get a job. It angers me to no end. And I know, as someone who does live at home, I don’t help the assumptions. I always put disclaimers on myself when I tell people where I live. I apologise for it and tell them how much I hate it. How I promise I’m trying to get out. Because I really do hate it, but I need to stop being so ashamed of circumstances I have no control of. My poverty certainly was not a choice. If I could will myself into that penthouse I certainly would. I am trying to change my circumstances, trying so hard it’s a full-time job in and of itself, but again IT ISN’T THAT EASY.
Telling someone in their twenties to “work harder” when they’re already working full time at one job and full time trying to change their circumstances is a really shitty thing to do. And those are often the people who wonder why we have a rise in mental illness and youth suicide rates. Hmm, I wonder…
My next move on this insane chess board is to bugger off to Edinburgh—so if any of you have a job for me please let me know! I’m well aware, though, how lucky I am to be in a situation where I’ve been able to save the tiny salary I earn at the pasty shop (I do pay rent, but not much else, and I have no social life so I save all my social life money…). I’ll certainly not be living in a penthouse, though. With my savings I’ll be lucky to find a damp house share I can afford. However, you better believe I’ll be blogging exactly how I do (or don’t…yikes) manage my move to Edinburgh in the autumn. Me and my houseplants (which are, by some miracle, still alive).
The take home message for this post, I guess, is a lot of people do not have the means to save money and simply move out. The lack of control in that is an incredibly isolating thing. It can feel as though you’re in one of those rooms where the walls are closing in and in and in until it’s a struggle to draw breath. So, don’t make them feel even more ashamed, even more trapped, even more isolated.
In essence, don’t be a dick.
I did not intend for this to be so long. Guess I have a lot of feelings about this…
[Changes afoot: I’ve set up a fresh Instagram for this blog (link in the side bar). I have not yet posted to it as I’m sorting out the backdrops and things to do it all properly and professionally and other words beginning with p. I also now have a ‘hire me’ page here so if you need any freelance writing done, please keep me in mind. Or you can support a small blogger by sharing any of my posts that have resonated with you and spreading the word. Thanks a bunch!]