Sunday, January 30, 2011

Growing Up

I wasn't planning on being all that personal to start out, but I really need to write about this right now. Sometime in the next week or so, I am finally moving out of my parents' home. It is probably going to be the last time I do so, which means that from here on out, I start a new journey for myself and have to forge a new relationship to my parents.

Since I come from a middle-class family, my parents were able to afford sending me to several supplemental programs (mostly Jewish in nature) during my years in elementary, middle, and high school, and they were able to cover more than 70% of my university costs. Since I live in a state where even the public university that I attended costed $25-30,000 a year, this was no easy feat. I know that this isn't a privilege everyone can receive (no matter what the "ideal" path I was exposed to in high school may have indicated), and I appreciate the opportunities I got from it, including the practice run at living on my own. I know I can cook and clean for myself, and that I can have adult conversations with my soon-to-be roommate about what my needs and his needs are, and how we can work out the details of our living. But this won't really be the same. I'm not going off to college and relying on my parents' money and my loans to pay for my rent and tuition, and I'm not going to be able to call home to beg my mother to allow me to pay for my groceries on her credit card when things get tight. For the first time, every dollar I spend is a dollar I earned myself, and every household rule I make is one my roommate and I set ourselves.

I finished college in the midst of an economic crisis in a small town with few jobs available and even fewer that would make ends meet, so after  a few months of severe depression, I decided it was time to move away from my beloved town in pursuit of work and stability. My parents allowed me to move back to my old bedroom in their house and mostly treated me like an adult who can take care of her own needs. Giving up my independence was painful, and at the same time there was a certain amount of comfort in returning home. But there were still clearly power dynamics at play, even after I managed to find enough work to piece together my own income. While I might not be expected to be home in time for dinner every night and am definitely welcome to go out drinking with my friends, I am still implicitly expected to check in about whether or not I will be home--and I will certainly get a call from my mother if I've not called her first. I also need to be quiet, if not asleep, by a certain time, finish my laundry by a certain time, and can only eat or drink in certain places in the house. They're rules I'm used to and that I mostly don't mind, but they're not my rules; I don't have a say in them.

 For the first time, I will be the one setting the boundaries on my space. I will have significantly more say than I do now about who comes over when, what gets cooked my kitchen, how late the television can be on, and in what rooms food and drink can be consumed. I'll also have more control in setting up the schedule on which the less-fun stuff, like washing dishes and cleaning the bathroom, gets done. That part is all very exciting, and I am anxious to get started there. The fact that I paid for my own part of the deposit with my own money and that I have a job that will continue to allow me to pay my own rent is reassuring; it means I have finally found a way to be self-sufficient. While there are some nerves, I am mostly just looking forward to moving out.

But I really don't know what that will mean for my relationships with my parents. I will be living close enough that they or I can regularly visit one another--but I don't really know what a visit from my parents will mean. If I want to go out shopping with my mom, I'll actually need to plan out an appointment with her. If my dad and I want to make plans to attend a scotch tasting, I can't just wait until he gets home from work to ask him the details. If he wants help from me to volunteer to run a blood drive or a booth at the Purim carnival at my synagogue, he'll have to call me or email me. My mom will probably call me less, since she won't be regularly trying to figure out whether or not to include me when preparing dinner; she'll just assume I'm not to be included without prior arrangements. When my sister gets her college acceptance letters and ultimately decides where she's going off to school come August/September, someone in the family will have to call me to tell me about it, just like they will my grandparents or aunts, uncles, and cousins. Does all this mean I'm becoming part of the extended family? I'm not really sure. In college, it never felt like that--but in school, I was never fully paying for myself, and the possibility of returning home was clearly there. This time the net will have faded a bit, and the rules will definitely be different. For all I know, my relationship with my mom is now going to look more similar to her relationship with my grandmother than it does to her relationship with my sister.

So that's where I am. I'm moving out, growing up, and I'm happy about it, mostly. I need the independence, and I need the space. But I don't know what it will mean for my family. I might eventually like whatever arrangement evolves, but for now I'm a bit nervous about it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment