The 5 Worst Parts of Moving Back in With Your Parents
Before college ended, I had made up my mind that I was going to be a prodigy screenwriter. I would graduate, tell North Carolina to tongue my rectum, and move out to Los Angeles. Within months, I would have my scripts, no, my visions noticed, and the rest of my life would be spent in relaxed creativity. "Hey Daniel! We're with FilmWhatevers.com, and we'd like to interview you about your wild, yet totally deserved success. Oh, wait. It seems as if Daniel has entered the "All Boning, Nothin' But Boning" Hot Tub Chamber with four beautiful, nameless women! It's OK. We'll wait."
But being a person costs a lot of money, and I moved back in with my parents instead. What was intended to be only a few months turned into a stay that lasted well into the next year. In that time, I learned a few surprising things from the experience, things that were way more substantial than the singular thing I expected to find out: you talk to your dad every day, and all hope dies.
The Way You Make Friends Changes
Growing up, your choice of friends is usually based around proximity and interests. For all its faults, the public education system has created an extremely effective method for crowding adolescents together and forcing them to pick sides. Unless you're one of those 12-year-old musical prodigies or Daniel Radcliffe, you really have nothing to separate you from the pack of kids whose greatest achievement is passing the grade prior to the one they're in now. You're left with nothing but your interests, whether they be sports or video games or video games about sports, the last one rendering you permanently insufferable.
College tends to divide people based on who they want to be. The people who want to light up Broadway are paired with other future waiters. The people who hold up pictures of dead fetuses in the middle of campus will catch the eyes of other abortion protestors in the Elementary Education building, and sparks will fly. The people who want to get drunk after their business exams will inevitably seek like-minded souls, and together they'll throw a couch off of my friend Tim's porch.
Though, to be fair, that's when the house stopped smelling weird.
Post-college looks at the wreckage and piles people into groups based on what they're doing. I was living at home, so my pickings were getting slimmer and slimmer. The place I was an intern at was filled with older people who had actual jobs and spouses and children, so they had no desire to join a desperate me for drinks after 5. I had remained friends with a scant few that I'd known in high school, but most of them had left for other parts of the state and country, and I hung out with them only when they visited town and felt enough sympathy to yell my name three times into the cave.
In a few of these friendships, I turned into an elephant in the room, with a sign over my head that read "Was Once Promising." It was a weird feeling brought on both by my friends' newfound senses of freedom and success and by my own insecurities. I felt that I now had to prove myself against former buddies whose lives had officially "started." It instilled a bitterness in me that took a while to shake off. Living with your parents, in common culture, is a scarlet letter that is shaped like your mom's face with the time that you're recommended to come home by stamped under it.
Topped off with the ever-present blanket of disappointment.
Making friends when you live at home after college is like doing inventory at a store that's just been looted. Sometimes, there are surprising finds, and I strengthened a few bonds with people who also were stuck trying to decide the right direction for their lives that didn't include sleeping in their childhood bed. But, mostly, unless you're working at a job or have hobbies that include more people than you, you won't find a lot of acquaintances that you can form actual, non-computer relationships with. It would have been far easier, though, if for a bit I hadn't convinced myself that you have more inherent worth as a person when you live on your own.
You Ruin Nostalgia
To me, nostalgia will always be represented by discovering my old Game Boys in a desk drawer. They only had a bit of dust on them, and the batteries in them hadn't begun to leak out, so they were still aesthetically pleasing. They were filled with the cartridges of Pokemon Red, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, and Heroes of Might and Magic, so I would have no trouble finding ways to make them produce joy. And, when I flicked the "On" button, they all powered up, and I was able to play them again. And play them I did, with the exception of Heroes of Might and Magic, a game created by frustrated wizards attempting to ruin the 2000 Christmas season.
The biggest problem with nostalgia is that it's a ghost of an emotion. That's not saying that if you like something when you're young you can't rediscover it and like it equally, or more, later. I loved comics as a child, spent all of middle school telling my classmates that comics were training pants for premature ejaculators, and was fixated on The Dark Knight Returns while my high school chemistry project group careened its way through a Barnes & Noble study session. Legitimate interest clings to you in a way that nostalgia doesn't. Nostalgia flees almost as quickly as it creeps up on you.
It seems like only yesterday that mom finally told me I was a boy.
Nostalgia can't sustain you in a way that passion can. I no longer had passion for these little Nintendo rectangles, and, after that warm feeling of "Remember when games just had two buttons to press? I totally agree with you, list of things you'll only understand if you were born in 1989" left, they simply took up space. And since I lived at home, I wasn't able to forget about them and rediscover them at a later time. I was stuck with them and was constantly reminded by them of an era that I had been desperate to escape. I had put away my childish things, and now they were back to haunt me.
For things like Game Boy games, I'd built a shield of irony. They're enjoyable, but, when pressured by the adult world to shape up and start a 401(k), they're deemed suitable only if you laugh them off later. "Haha, yeah. I still play Pokemon, but I only do it because, you know, retro. #tbt." And since there had been no significant separation between me and those games, I couldn't even use the lame "hey, nostalgia" excuse. Without that time and distance between you and your memories, nostalgia is exactly as possible as making a heroin cake without flour and promises of a sober tomorrow.
You don't eat heroin cake. You absorb it into your soul.
Your Search for a Purpose Explodes ... or Dies Entirely
As I mentioned in the introduction, most of my purpose in life up until I turned 22 was based around acquiring fame for little to no work and getting laid. College "prepared" me for a life of the first and an everlasting bumbling hurtle toward the second. I was getting a degree that would, statistically, put me in line for better jobs than the majority of people who hadn't gotten these coveted slips of paper that announced THIS HONORABLE HUMAN BEING WILL MAKE THE MONEY, GATHER THE RESPECT, AND HAVE ALL THE VACATION TIME THAT HE WANTS.
I had been worked up into a misguided motivational frenzy, only to hit a wall that looked surprisingly like the room I used to hide porn in. I had been granted a worldview that seemed limitless. I wouldn't have to worry about a career, because it would be handed to me, as I'd made a C in a course that was vaguely related to it. Experience? Who needs experience in their field when they went to class at 8 in the morning for five months? College was going to be the giant henchman behind me who headbutted people that I disagreed with. It was a deus ex machina for my laziest characteristics.
Perhaps you should send my rejection letter to my pals Bachelor and Degree.
The first few months were rough. I felt defeated, as if I'd been led astray somehow. I was on a path that could have been clearly predicted with logic and foresight, but I took it as a betrayal of my potential. It took a long, hard look at myself to change that. I had certain goals that needed tinkering. No, since I was living at home, I probably wouldn't be able to direct Wrong Turn 7 at age 22 (I never said they were fucking good goals). But I was able to switch around a few of the circumstances, and I realized that there were certain things that I wanted to accomplish now. They weren't the same as the extravagant goals that I'd formed in college, nor did they have their importance lessened because they were more realistic. But they were goals, and I formed them when I just as easily could have pouted and rewatched Wrong Turns 1 Through 6.
So many facets of life are centered on not living with your parents anymore, whether it be financial things or adhering to the popular societal standard that tells you that living at home sends a jamming signal to the radar of every vagina in town. Moving back in with your parents can remove the shackles that bind you to whatever former incentives that you had, and you remove standards that are sometimes there for a good reason. You can collect as many jars of urine as you want now, because you don't have to conform. And in that first month of staying under my parent's roof, before I switched gears, my emotional shelf was just a cannery of piss. And there's not a lot of drive to go do anything else once you've become too accustomed to the smell of pee.
Don't judge me. Some video games just don't have a pause function.
I sincerely need to work on my metaphors.
You Become "That Person From High School"
The "person from high school" stereotype is often a kind of power fantasy. You put yourself in the shoes of your own douche avatar and imagine all the ways that you'll talk down to the subnormal Morlocks whose be-all and end-all is the latest Ruby Tuesdays special, and who are convinced that Once Upon a Time is quality television. I've had these flights of fancy before, where, since I'm tall, lean, and funny(?), just entering a hometown bar will transform me into Ryan Reynolds, even though I'd resemble him only if he was the victim of a face-oriented bus accident.
I would order a drink, wow all the people with my tales of what it's like to not think Sons of Anarchy is a good show, and stun them by pronouncing "Bulleit Rye Whiskey" correctly. And the wisecracks! Oh, the wisecracks that DanRyaniel DockReynoldsery would have. Wisecracks bursting out the motherfucking windows and into the streets.
"It's OK, you can touch me. I'm the real deal, baby."
Every cheerleader-who-got-fat-after-her-third-kid trope within the county line would rush down to see if they could get some prime wisecrackin' dick in their lives. All of the football players who went pitifully bald at 19 would suddenly realize that I was the funniest thing to ever happen and would buy me a drink to illustrate how sorry they were for not inviting me to parties back in the day. And then, when I'd granted all of these losers a chance to nibble at my forbidden fruit, I'd drive away into the night, leaving them wondering who that handsome flash of brilliance and sexual finesse was.
It hardly took one trip to a bar to make me realize that going to college didn't mean shit to anyone else. No one gave me a fucking parade because of my education and liberal-leaning morals. No panties were flung in the direction of the guy who talked a lot about Fawlty Towers because he got exposed to "quality television in sophomore year." I didn't have any of the superficial fame, like having been on TV a few times, that would garner, "Is that I who I think it is?" whispers from various clusters of people in the bar. I had gone to college, and now I was back in my parents' house and surrounded by people who were also trying to make money and live life and figure things out.
"Wait, did you not hear my opinion on Game of Thrones?"
I was in the same situation that they were in. It was a "don't throw stones in a glass house" kind of thing, and I was only going to make it worse if I kept shouting, "My sociology class really opened my eyes!" before I cocked my arm back and chucked a full-on cinder block.
Your Emotional Maturity Is Stunted
College allowed me to grow up a little bit. Before it, my emotional maturity was a mix of armpit farts and singing "Here Without You" by 3 Doors Down over the phone to a girl who had recently told me that she had no intentions of holding hands with me in the mall food court. I was able to quit all of the crooning and farts for a time, but the notion that I'd been dropped into my parents' house with no escape after four years of being told, "You're brilliant and will go far," gave me a new, worse kind of emotional immaturity.
I mentioned that I felt like my potential had been betrayed. I was in the same, literal spot that I'd been in in high school, where I'd felt powerless because I hadn't achieved anything and wasn't in any position to. But I was special and talented, in that weird, invisible way that doesn't require any proof because you just believe you're so special and talented. I didn't need time to work on things or at places that I deemed "smaller" than what I deserved. I didn't want to send query letters to editors because I was so innately gifted that people would see me and be in awe. So much awe that they'd bank an entire salary's worth of money, based only on my aura.
"Daniel, that is extremely distracting. Please stop."
It's easy to take everything you read and turn it into a dick-measuring contest. I'm sure that the worst people in the world are scrolling through this and thinking, "He only spent a little over a year at home? I've been living with my parents for 20 years and survived on nothing but their flesh." And this mindset often comes from the stunted notion that everything has a warped sense of relativity, and that all experiences must be matched against each other to battle for superiority. It's why the UFC still exists.
I adopted this feeling, and it became my greatest disadvantage. I constantly compared myself, my successes, and my failures with others. I gloated when I had done "better," and I became angry when I did "worse," and I lashed out when my own experience was "slighted" by the experiences of others. I arbitrarily began to swing my dick up close to all of the other dicks, trying to maintain some semblance of dominance over a place that had seemingly shifted under my feet.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Walk away, dickass."
I outgrew this only after I left home and had to struggle without a safety net telling me that I'd see outstanding results apropos of nothing. You might live at home and never feel the need to belittle other people with your infinitely grander struggles. But that was my story, and the only part that is relative to any of your stories is this: we all have to grow up.
Daniel is now a super adult and has a blog.
For more from Daniel, check out 7 Special Membership Types Every Gym Needs to Offer and 6 Unshakable Beliefs You Develop Growing Up a Redneck.
Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.