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OPINION: The highs and lows of three and a half years living with my parents as an adult.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

It’s a trope as old as time, the young rural boy with a queerness he just can’t contain counting down the days until he can turn his back on small-town life and find a place where he belongs among the bright lights of the big city. I grew up in rural North County Dublin, only a stone’s throw from our capital city, but as a teenager surrounded by green fields and starry nights that felt like a straight jacket, it might as well have been another universe. I was laser-focused on the freedom and independence that a move to the city offered me, and as soon as the ink was dry on my college offer letter the family farm was in the rearview mirror. 

Over the past two decades my stopovers at home were fleeting, a handy saving scheme for planning my next adventures, figuring out my next move after landing back in Ireland from living abroad, and brief holdovers between rented houses, but never more than a month or two and always with a definite exit strategy.  I hadn’t intended to ever live at home long term.

In October 2020 along with many other members of the boomerang generation, burnt-out, emotionally and mentally exhausted and beginning to accept the reality that we hadn’t seen the back of pandemic-related lockdowns with no ETA on a departure and no idea what would come next a move back to the homestead became inevitable. 

Three and a half years later I find myself packing up my belongings again, about to move into a new home, bought with my partner, and back in the city I love. I can’t help but be thankful for this chapter of my life and more than a little sad that it is coming to an end. 

Stepping back now to look at the experiences that define these past years a handful of highs and lows stand out. 

High: Financial frivolity.

Just like Leo advised us all back in 2018, I honestly had the best of intentions of saving every extra cent to put towards a deposit for a home – but as the country lurched from lockdown to lockdown and with no social life and only my good friends Amazon, Etsy and ASOS for company, I converted to the church of Treat Yo Self and a smorgasbord of entirely necessary purchases followed.

A framed original theatre run Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion movie poster? Essential. A bespoke Neon Wall Sign in the shape of some headphones? Crucial. A vintage record player and Carley Rae Jepsen’s entire back catalogue on vinyl? Fundamental! 

At one point our postman, on his fifth delivery of the week, joked about holding an intervention about my online spending habits. At least I think it was a joke.  

Low: Learning to Drive.

I stand before you a gay man with a breakneck walking speed, iced coffee addiction, and a Drag Race quote or Carley Rae Jepsen fact for every situation.

Frankly, it’s frightening how well frivolous internet memes sum me up. With that in mind, it may come as no surprise that before moving home the only instruction on automobiles I had received was from Ms Britney Jean Spears regarding how I might get either a Maserati or a Lamborghini. Returning to my country roots finally pushed me to accept that driving was a life skill I could not live without.

Three years and two failed driving tests later it’s a reminder that some skills are acquired through persistence rather than innate talent, and if you want that ‘I passed my driving test’ post for your Instagram, You better work, bitch.

High: A spring clean for the mind.

A study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research in 2023 found that moving back in with your parents had a net positive impact on your mental health. While I certainly would not have expected this to be the case, it has absolutely been my experience. Despite a fairly positive experience of the pandemic, my job was secure, my housing was stable and my social support system was strong, the pressure of the uncertainty and ambiguity of that time sent my mental health into a nose dive. Moving home became a catalyst for the beginning of a healing journey through counselling and self-reflection that has been transformative.  

Low: Social life on hold.

As pandemic restrictions fell by the wayside life started happening again, but suddenly and for the first time since I was 18 I wasn’t right there in the middle of it. Doing anything was complicated and involved coordination and planning, the easy breezy after-work drinks planned on a whim and relaxed weekend brunches that had been a hallmark of my life before coming home now involved long commutes, negotiating lifts, studying train timetables and days of notice. I had to become much more selective about what I went to and learn to live with the feeling of exclusion and FOMO when friends planned events I couldn’t be part of. 

Image by Piyapong Saydaung from Pixabay

High: Completing a rewatch of ER

With 331 one-hour-plus episodes spanning 15 seasons committing to a rewatch of the daddy of all medical drama television series was borderline a second full-time job.

I demonstrated more commitment to the staff of Chicagos County General than I have some of my past relationships and I feel that deserves to be celebrated.

Returning home may not have been part of my original plan, but it has undoubtedly shaped me in ways I never anticipated. A lot has been said about the liberating experience for queer people of finding community in big cities, how they can give you space and freedom to explore yourself and your identity and this has certainly been true for me, but coming home has been essential in helping me more fully understand myself. 

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