Half-Empty Nest Syndrome: Twenty-Something, Living With Parents, and Feeling All Right1
By Thomas Chandler
The typical trajectory of the average red-blooded American has him or her leaving home somewhere around the eighteen year mark. That’s when most kids head off to enjoy the varied fruits of higher education, go backpacking through Europe, or move in with the guy who works at the bike repair shop and dabbles in hydroponics.
It’s the age we legally declare the beginning of adulthood, so it only makes sense that it marks independence from the controlling ways of Mom and Dad. Independence has its price, and that price can oftentimes be summed up in dollars and cents. So if things don’t go according to plan, and the whole alt rock country jam band superstar model doesn’t pan out, there’s a good chance that moving back in to one’s childhood home isn’t just a nice option to have, but an economic necessity.
No one wants to do that, really, because our parents are our parents, and our home is our home, but we hope that doesn’t stop them from doing it before we become homeless. Like Bob, for example, the protagonist of Home At Last, KoldCast TV’s new Show about a homeless man who moves in with his estranged son and has a comically difficult time integrating back into society. But at least he has running water and isn’t getting stabbed over half a bagel, so there’s that.
Watch Episode 1 of comedy series Home At Last, “Pee Paw”
Is living with one’s parents, a second time around, really all that bad? We know a lot of people in this situation because we’re writers, and this kind of thing seems to happen more often when you run with the artist crowd, especially when those artists are pouring their hearts, souls and paychecks into creating hit Internet TV series, where the money hasn’t caught up to broadcast television yet!
We wish we could commiserate, but frankly, we have very little interest in throwing a pity party for our comrades living back at home. Sure it’s annoying their moms know what time they’re coming home at night and their dads are hogging up all the bandwidth downloading who knows what, but we’d rather celebrate the good things that can come out of it. We’re glass half-full kind of people.
Which reminds us, did you hand wash these glasses before putting them in the dishwasher? Because we’ve told you twice and we’re not going to tell you again – Our roof. Our rules.
The first benefit of living at mom and dad’s is obvious. You get to spend more time with your family, whether you like it or not. You had your time away from them, your first taste of the real world, and now you get a second chance at dealing with your parents and siblings as a world-weary adult. Sure, they’re probably going to haggle over rent and leave passive-aggressive notes on the garage door, but that’s not far from the minor annoyances you’d be dealing with if you were living with a roommate, even if that roommate was your best friend.
Centuries ago, it made perfect sense to get the hell out of your house and start living your life as an adult as soon as humanly possible. Y’know, because you were going to die of Dysentery at the ripe old age of 28. Now we live deep into our eighties just by steering clear of Jack in the Box. The idea that one has to separate from their parents in order to become a bona fide adult is irrelevant these days.
Assuming your parents aren’t white supremacists or One Direction super fans, a little more time hanging with them can only be a good thing. Parents are more than just the people who kick-start our lives and occasionally pretend they didn’t fart when they totally did. They’re the people who guide us through it, help us avoid the many pitfalls, pick us up off the ground when all we want to do is lie there, kicking and screaming.
And they’re usually far cooler than we expected them to be. In fact, the more you learn about the world, the more you realize just how much your parents had it figured out already, and they were just letting you make your own mistakes because it’s way more fun to lay back in an easy chair and watch you flounder around life like a damned fool. If you take a good look at them, you might find your parents are Zen masters, because that’s what parenthood does to you.
And who doesn’t want to be a Zen master?
Our friends who live at home constantly feel like they’re missing out on life. And to that we say: the grass is always greener on the other side of the white picket fence, friend. So instead of feeling like you’re a failure at life because you weren’t able to make your dreams pan out in one of the worst economic climates this country has ever seen, embrace the circumstances for what they are: a chance to justify more time in the incubator; the opportunity to hatch as a falcon instead of a sparrow.
You’ve got a garage again! Use it to take up a hobby. Mom and Dad may give you grief for not spending every waking minute nurturing your new career, or for not spending enough time finding one, but they can’t really stop you from learning how to brew your own beer, work on a hot rod, or from putting your hydroponic grow light into action – ok, maybe they can on the last one.
You’ve got the two things that you need to better yourself: time and space. Trust us, these things aren’t easy to come by as a working adult. It’s the reason most people give up on their dreams in the first place.
That need to get out and pave your own path and conquer the world as soon as humanly possible is a good thing. It’s built into our core. The key is in understanding that it shouldn’t come at the expense of learning to enjoy life, even when you’re not in complete control.
Hell, remain at home until you’re in your late twenties. If society has evolved in such a way as to give us the amazing chance to spend ten more years with the people who unconditionally love us and to soak up wisdom about things we didn’t even know we didn’t know about, you’d be a fool not to do it. You only live once.
So, if you’re one of those lucky ones reading this from your own apartment in the city, or at the office of the cushy job that pays for it, pick up the phone and give your dad a call. Go buy him a beer, or ask him to buy you one, and hear what he has to say. You might learn something.
Scene from Home At Last
Tom Chandler was born and raised in a small town outside Seattle. He’s currently writing a screenplay about two robots striving to reform the American educational system.