Living with family has turned out to be a major part of my adult life, for choices and circumstances I don’t see a point in dwelling on. Of course, no one plans it that way, but shit (life, recessions, unmet expectations) happens. I felt self-conscious moving back in with my parents after college (and staying for three years!).
Now, I see all the value it brought me. IÂ likeÂ my family in addition to loving them.
And, they’re not normal – neither the immediate nor the extended. We have everything: hippies, felons, Conservatives. Boat captains. Horse-back riders. Stefon’s clubs have nothing on us.
The immediate, Tampa clan is: Jane (mom), Michael (dad), Chris (half-brother through dad), and me.Â We laugh about bowel movements, watch PBS together, and always say we’ll ‘go small’ for Christmas and then totally do the opposite. We love station wagons.
We discuss, we debate, we celebrate, but I’ve never done normal things with my family (camping, theme parks), and god knows I wasn’t a normal kid (high heels & oversized tee shirts at Christmas, and a fierce fire truck obsession). At every juncture growing up, we’re given a media-approved picture of what ‘family’ should be and do. Thankfully, I’ve embraced myself, them, and our uniquely English history.
Part of spending more than holidays with your family, as an adult, means uncovering revelations and truths, and redefining roles and relationships. I became a fitness & nutrition buff, which has rubbed off on everyone (stretching and artificial sugar have become subjects of daily conversation). My professional life has meshed more and more with both my mom’s and my dad’s, creating an odd sensation of occupational style cramping and interspersed formal and informal e-mails.
Meeting other gays my age has also shed light on my unique ‘coming out’ experience – in that it was a non-issue with my family. No one discussed it, in a good way. Just as it should be.
You realize that your parents are human, just like you. They make mistakes, have questionable judgement, and struggle just like you do. You get valuable advice. In my mid-20s, I consider their opinions along with those of my close friends, and of my gut instinct, rather than taking their words for gospel. They have known me longer than anyone though, so their words carry weight, good or bad.
In watching my parents age, the thoughts abound: how did they decide they loved each other enough to commit, for nearly 30 years? How will they age, retire, suffer, and die? How can I improve their quality of life, as I eventually swap roles, from dependent to provider? How can I emulate their style of parenting with my own children?
In short, I’ve grown far more respectful, and loving, of my parents. I think about them a lot, miss them even though I now only live 5 minutes away. I empathize with their life challenges, as I now have the same ones to battle. I long wanted to flee Tampa, for a city more beautiful, or exciting, or fulfilling. I may still someday, but I appreciate Tampa’s nuances, its silver linings, and being near the people I love.
In June, I moved into a new place with my brother, starting the second chapter of ‘living with family.’ Despite a 10 year age gap, we’ve always been close, sharing many personality quirks and mannerisms, only he has half different genetics (from his mom’s side – not a dull group either). We initiated a rental search, found a gorgeous place, and built our household together. The neighbors assumed we were a gay couple, which my brother laughed off and suggested we should perpetuate, for fun.
We’re both learning more about each other. I share with him my health problems (he drove me to my colonoscopy), he tells me about gaming, a world I knew nothing about. I discuss gay intercourse and culture with him, though I maintain that he’s the gayer one of us (two cats, hung all our art, OCD about cleaning!). We both love boutique protein powder and drive Volkswagens.
I have seen and felt the arc of emotions toward my family living situations.
Mild embarrassment and sensitivity, then comfort and relief, and finally, gratitude. Unlike other millennials in my situation, I’ve been fully employed all along, allowing me to have an active social life and travel outside of my family. But, every evening or weekend, I enjoy the company of those that formed me, knowing it comes without judgement, or pressure.
Maybe they are just awesome people, regardless of being blood relatives. Would I know that as much, had I moved away immediately, and only seen them twice a year? I can’t analyze what didn’t happen. I don’t regret choosing to stay, to be labeled a boomerang kid. Some of the best parts of life aren’t normal, or prescribed.