A view into my past

If you’ve read my book, or have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that the book was inspired partly by the experiences I had myself as an adult child living at home.

This past weekend, I went to my mom’s place to help her set up a new computer. While transferring her files over, we found a folder called “Christina” in her documents. Inside was an essay I wrote about my feelings in June 2000, when I was 22 and just getting ready to leave home again after a 9-month after-college stay as an adult. I thought it would be nice to share my thoughts from 9 years ago with you, so here it is:.

June 3, 2000

I, like many others, left my parents’ house the September after I graduated from high school. At age 17 I left to conquer the world, or at least to gather the skills to do so, as I headed to the University of Victoria. For four years I lived on my own, or with room-mates, working and going to school, the whole while feeling like a child playing house –- getting up to minor mischief and reveling in the lack of “adult” supervision. As graduation drew near, however, as I moved into my twenties and started to think about what my parents’ lives had been like at the same age, I realized that adulthood was looming and I was no longer playing house; I was building a life in my own home.

The end of my studies came and went with surprisingly little fanfare. I walked out of my final exam knowing that my university experience was over and that I was a student no longer, but not knowing what new label would replace my student identity. I had no job lined up, and I didn’t know quite where to start looking. There was suddenly nothing holding me in the town that had been my home for four years, so at age 21 I packed up my bags again and returned to my parents’ home.

During the four years I had been away, my father had retired, my younger sister had left home to herself become a student, and the resident cat had taken over the role of favored child. Re-integrating myself into this home that was so familiar and yet just not my home anymore was difficult. I brought with me a cat of my own, and the two cats faced off for control of the house. My parents and I faced off in similar, if more subtle, ways. I was a child when I left but an adult when I returned, and the integration of an adult-child into the household meant the rules and patterns had to change. In this, my parents’ home, I no longer had the freedom of a child playing house; instead I joined a fairly large segment of my peers who had returned to the empty nest and reverted to a kind of extended infancy. I was suddenly overwhelmed by adult supervision, and I felt like this place I lived in was not truly my home. In the nine months I have lived there, I have spent less and less time “at home” and have often felt like I was drifting, just waiting for something to push me back into a life of my own. Reverting to childhood is so easy, and it is nice to be looked after for a time, but now at 22 it is time to leave this easy shelter again.

Returning to the empty nest was at times comforting, at times chaotic for all involved. As I pack my boxes to strike out on my own once again, I look forward to the long evenings I will spend visiting in this place which is, after all, very much my parents’ home.

I’m so glad that I now get to help families who are struggling through their own version of this scenario. Best wishes to all of you who have adult children living at home — remember that the situation can be tough on them too.