Life in the basement

We’re no longer the butt of a joke — we’re it, honey.

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“I can’t do my laundry, I’m having an existential crisis. GOD, MOM.”

It’s typical comedy fodder: the poorly-dressed, frumpy thirty-something male comes upstairs from his basement lair and demands something ridiculous and childish — he wants his mother to make him dinner, or do his laundry, or read him a bedtime story. The audience laughs. A company sells insurance policies or microwave dinners. Everyone goes home happy.

I’m not happy.

I’m not happy being the brunt of a joke that stopped being funny when I started learning more about how many people my age can barely afford to feed and shelter themselves. Some of the best people I know are struggling to pay off student loans or to pay for classes and certifications they need to do their jobs. And some of those amazing people who are already out there trying to change the world just so happen to 1) be at or under the age of 25; and 2) still live with their parents.

In a world where most people don’t believe people should be paid enough to cover basic necessities and even more don’t think those struggling to get by shouldn’t have access to affordable healthcare, I’m thankful to have parents who haven’t gotten sick of me yet. It may have taken two years of living at home in my post-grad life to realize, but I’m finally coming to understand how lucky I am to have parents who are willing to keep their home open to me until I can save up enough to strike out on my own.

There are annoyances, of course. (Why do you need to go where I’m going, Mom?) And do I crave freedom and true independence? Absolutely. I lived in an apartment with two great roommates for my last two years of college and I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss having my own kitchen and staying up to binge watch X-Men: Evolution until two in the morning with friends. And do I hate the LIRR? With a burning passion. But these small obstacles don’t stack up to the money in my bank account and the endless opportunities I’m allowing myself to see at home.

Living in your parents’ basement at 15, 24, or 35 isn’t a step backward, and it isn’t something to be ashamed of. It means someone loves you enough to let you fall on them as a backup plan. It means you have a roof over your head, while you figure out a new career move or finish a creative project. It means you have to get up a little earlier and work a little harder. (It means sometimes you get homemade pasta sauce. Mmm.)

There are opportunities to be had in the familiar surroundings you grew up with and the other awesome people who still live in the old neighborhood. It doesn’t matter where you live, it’s what you do with that environment — so wallow a little, take a breath, and then make something of this time at home.

“It is problematic that ‘independence’ is so rigidly tied to leaving home,” the Washington Post says. A 22-year-old who lives in a $3000 studio apartment in the East Village may be far more reliant on their parents — both financially and emotionally — than one living in their old bedroom at home. “Independence” means building a life for yourself, in whatever way that makes sense for you. If that means living at home to save money and fight to keep Donald Trump as far from the Oval Office as humanly possible, then do that.

Living at home as an adult affords the unique double-opportunity to find out what you want from adulthood, and to find out what you want from a relationship with your parents. As you go to school and work and go out and make friends and fall in love — all while living at home — you’ll learn how to navigate those waters with your parents, as adults on more or less the same playing field.

I know I’ve personally felt like a failure in these last two years, at times. I’ve hated myself and berated myself. I’ve submitted applications to ridiculous jobs and thought about driving somewhere cheaper and just sitting in an apartment that was mine all mine.

But that’s stupid. I have dream jobs, but I also have attainable goals that I should — and can, and will — be working on to get me there. Living at home is helping me make those small steps. Why should I feel like a failure when I have a job I love in the field I’ve always wanted to work in? I’ve learned to manage my time, to balance a commute and a social life, and I’ve learned to let myself relax. All that was holding me back was my ridiculous, unending need to move out. Now that I’m settling in (and setting a more realistic move-out date), I’m realizing how much I can do from the comfort of my childhood home.

So don’t waste life in Mom’s basement, fellow millennials, by worrying what the commercials or sitcoms or newspapers are saying about you. Use this time to plan your next move. Recognize the second job you might find, or the freelance gig you can snag, or the classes you can take. Pick a goal and fight for it, in all the ways you can, with the resources at your disposal.

Emerge from the basement strong and victorious. And tell the Baby Boomers to shove it.


 

Have you told a Boomer to shove it recently? Share your story in the comments!

 

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