by Hally Joseph, contributor
For the college-bound 18-year-old, you move out of your parents’ house and into four years of creating your own routine, paying for the things you need and learning your way around a kitchen (or a takeout menu). You go to class, get involved in extracurricular activities and pick up a part-time job or an internship along the way. With those good habits, you pick up some adult ones: you and booze get well acquainted, no one tracks where you’re spending the night and you learn you can subsist entirely off of frozen food. Add in a growing sense of worldliness, burgeoning political or social values, your updated reading list and your new marketable skill set, and somewhere along the way you start feeling more like a grown-up. Then you’re given a diploma, the ultimate goal of those four years, and – wham! – you move right back into your parents’ house.
Doesn’t sound like the collegiate life path ideal we grew up with, does it? Unfortunately, Generation Y has a tacky new nickname: the Boomerang Generation. As of February 2013, The Huffington Post reported that 85 percent of new college graduates move back in with their parents. Fewer jobs, intense competition in the job market, increase of unpaid internships and crippling college debt keep new grads from striking out on their own anytime soon. So Mom and Dad, here’s your 22-year-old baby: they drink now, they keep their own hours, they haven’t ten dollars to their name and they’re a bit surly that their degree did not jet-set them into a career.
While the media shouts “grow up” at us or empathizes with 30 different ways to say “the economy,” let me make a confession: I’m part of the boomerang generation. I’m writing this from my childhood bedroom. In the kitchen, my parents are making dinner, in which I get to partake, for free. I like that word. Moving back home was my personal choice. Graduate school is expensive and my parents only live 45 minutes away from the city. Hello two years I save on rent. Goodbye apartment, privacy and idiosyncrasies of living alone. Though my classmates give me a pained look when I tell them I live at Home with a capital H, I’ve got to say, don’t knock this. When done right, boomeranging can be a successful way to get through your rough patch, save up some money and spend some time reconnecting with your roots.
I hope you get a job when you graduate. I hope you get the best job. I hope I get the best job, because I’m going to need it to pay off my SCAD student loans. But if you need to spend some time at home and your family is nice enough to let you move back in, make the most of it. Set boundaries with your parents for being an adult in your childhood home, navigating the old, nostalgic days and now the new, exasperating days of “What time will you be home?” and “Who are you going out with?” Ask what ways you can contribute, whether it’s paying a small rent or being the designated dishwasher. Spend time with your family and your family pets, enjoying your “old life” from the perspective of a more grown-up you. There’s a reason why the Italians and Spanish live at home until they get married, it isn’t all that bad having a community to enjoy dinner with and who support you when you need it most.
Our generation is learning a tough lesson, we’re not necessarily going to get what was promised. We may need to suck up our pride and move back home until we get back on our feet, however long it takes. The good news is when we emerge from the nest a second time, we’re going to have twice as much respect for where we came from and for where we’re going.