What’s unusual is for someone not to leave home. Granted, some people have stayed in the nest longer than the rest, or have crashed there long enough to regain power of flight after having their wings clipped through divorce, illness, job loss or some other form of adversity. However, returning home is typically a behavior of last resort. I can’t think of anyone at my 30th high school class reunion who was still sleeping in their childhood bedroom, letting their aging parent fix their meals and buy their socks and underwear. Perish the thought.
Americans collectively have a great pride and independence that exceeds most things, including common sense and wisdom, especially when it comes to moving out. “I’m blowing this Popsicle stand” we announce with highly public bravado on our way to new adventures in the brave new world of personal poverty and adult-sized adversity.
Too ignorant to know what we don’t know, we rush forward, frequently freefalling from the parental nest without first testing our parachute, let alone having any clue as to what color it is. That’s what made the bumper sticker sentiment, “Children, leave home now – while you still know everything!” so popular among adults. Had we been less arrogant, we might have clung to the nest like dryer lint to a pantleg.
I was a relative late-leaver at road-hitting from my parents’ home. At 22, I had waitressed my way through four years of college and was ready to embark on my first career. But through a weird, early computer era error, I received a grade of “I” (incomplete) for an internship experience I had, in fact, completed. My professor valiantly attempted to clear up the mistake, but the best the college registrar could do was issue my diploma during the next graduation cycle.
If that happened today, would I post a scathing account of it on Facebook, would a friend of an attorney friend post it on the university Facebook page, and would they issue me a downloadable bachelor of science diploma immediately? In olden days, before cyber retaliation had been invented, I simply sucked it up, continued to waitress, and watched my already jaded outlook on higher education turn a deeper shade of green.
Several months later, with newly minted diploma in hand, I acquired my first “real” job: writing for a newspaper for $6.00 an hour. I packed all my belongings into my trusty, rusty Ford Granada and drove to the uninsulated, dinky lake cottage I was off-season renting with my first adult roommate and her vengeful cat who would urinate and defecate only on my stuff, which I would overlook for a time because the heady smell of new adult freedom can overpower even the most pungent cat pee.
My first meager “professional” checks went for necessities like take-out pizza, junk food, gym membership and alcohol, not necessarily in that order. Because what’s the point of leaving your parents’ rule-ridden, oppressive environment only to reconstruct it elsewhere? C’mon. Things were gonna be different on my own!
Then came the day I wrote my first rent check, accompanied by a reality check. I only had enough money for Dave Ramsey nutrition – rice and beans, less the beans, for the remainder of the month. Maybe my folks weren’t so stupid, after all.
I wrote this in response to seeing a photo of the practical supplies my cousin and her trophy husband had bought for their son, who was moving out post-high school. Clearly, they had been shopping for their own needs, not his. The most unnecessary item they purchased was a plunger. Really! Didn’t they know he was planning on leaving all the crap behind?