I’m Al, I am 26 years old, and today I move out of my parents’ house. Fanfare please.
Mine is a riff on your usual millennial story arc. I grew up in the 90’s and 00’s, and was shepherded down the well-worn path from education to the professions like every other good little middle-class scion. As we all bobbed merrily along, we were all coddled in the collective certainty we’d be plonked into good jobs (graduate, London, circa £25k) at the other end. Anything but was inconceivable. Life was there on a golden platter, all teed up.
Enter stage-right global financial crisis: fire actors, nationalise theatre, bail out producers. The world moved on, for the worst, and things got tough for everyone involved. That said however, for me it almost didn’t matter. Almost. I nearly got away scot-free, escaping the employment wreckage of 2008/09 for work abroad. I got pretty far too (5,975 miles to be precise, not a bad first effort), but the universe – as it is want – cared not one jot. Early 2013 hit me with both barrels, skewering me with a slew of personal, professional and financial crotch-hits, and as a result I wound up back in the house I’d called home since 1992. I had a princely £15.61 banked, 3 friends within 30 miles and was on the dole.
SINKING FEELING, FEELING SINKING
I’d wager my life savings (£15.61) no circle of hell is as harrowing as the Warrington Job Centre dole queue on a dreich January morning, but it was there, sat with one of their rheumy-eyed job harpies that I truly realised my predicament: “You may very well want a ‘creative’ job, but there are none going. Your work history shows manual labour and I need you off my books to meet my quota, so I’ll just go ahead and amend your profile…”
Ten points to Gryffindor if you spotted Robert Baratheon in the above. If only my Job Centre experience had been as rhythmic… Mine was a wake-up call. A slap across the face stating: “You cannot handle this world. Not in the way you want.” I decided to admit defeat. Retreat. Tap out. I strangled my pride and moved straight home. Being a tall, white, Western male (avec corresponding bred-in entitlement complex), I cannot understate how psychologically reassuring having that fallback was. And yes, I appreciate the irony… Still, the fact of the matter was, that after three full-blown years of (quasi) adulthood in China, I moved back in with my parents. In one fell infantilising swoop, I became a re-adolescent.
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Living at home in your mid-20’s means standing still. Stepping outside of life’s forward flow. Chilling out. Cooling your fucking heels. Slowing. Stopping.
A side product of that initially unwelcome stillness is that you’re given time to reassess. I used the word ‘shepherded’ before as that’s how I now feel about many past choices: as if, looking back, they were made only half-consciously. Like I was swept, oblivious, past life’s crossroads down the road most-travelled. As if they weren’t even my choices – “This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!” – and it’s only now I’ve managed to schlep back to that fork and pick a road of my choosing. Me. Mine. My own. (My precious).
THE SMART MONEY
I’m beginning to sound like a pretentious wanker, so try this: living at home in your mid-20’s is about money. Our generation is the first in a while to be less well-off than the previous, and those of it “not really worrying about money” are usually nobjockeys with far too much. Let’s all agree it’s quite important. You don’t need braying posho wealth (Dave, Gideon, Boris), but you do need ‘enough’ and, when circumstances frogmarch you into the financial gulags, there are worse places to save ‘enough’ than at your parents’.
Living at home in your mid-20’s helps you save either for a foundation for life, or at least for the tools to build one. And tools, good ones, cost. Be it a functioning laptop, healthy food (so expensive) or a car that doesn’t sputter to death on the work commute, there is always something – tools, whatever – you need to get on a level footing. If you are lucky enough to be able to, living at home gets you on that footing more quickly. That might draw accusations of materialism, but the simple brutal fact is that on its lowest rung the world is a world of things. If you haven’t got the right things, you are at a huge disadvantage compared to those who do. They may be a luxury, but savings are smart. Savings = things.
A BIT RICH
Something I’ve noticed, and detest, since coming back to the UK is the ‘you-should-be-doing-it-like-this’ attitude some people have towards those struggling with money. The attitude of ‘well, if you’re poor then you’re obviously doing it wrong.’ It’s “minimum-wage workers should be grateful they even have jobs” on one hand, and “I deserve this £250k bonus” on the other. It proclaims: “we’re all in this together” in public, then retires to a multi-acre mansion in Chipping Norton in private. It proselytises “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps,” then sneers at someone on national TV for having the barefaced cheek to do exactly that. At its root, it’s the deluded thinking that believes Rich can truly comprehend Poor, and therefore pass judgement. And then laws.
It’s bollocks. People thinking that way, people usually from cushty backgrounds, have had far too neat a safety net knitted for them. For us. I could quite easily fit that bill, but all I can personally can say is that one tiny, microscopic, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it taste of misfortune sent me scurrying back to my parents’. For 16 months. And thank God I had the option, an option many do not. I owe my folks much, much, more than I can ever give back…
TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’
Attitudes are shifting though, I think. I’d assumed I’d get ribbed this year for living at home, mocked even, but to my surprise the most common response has been: “How much of your monthly salary are you saving?” followed by: “Bastard.” Of course there have been some snidey little asides, usually from middle-aged English people who really don’t know what they’re talking about, but overall it hasn’t been quite the taboo I expected.
Finally though, I’m moving on. I bagged a good job and today am off to the hippest part of (arguably) England’s hippest city. Unfortunately, parts of it are overpopulated with kale-eating beardy musiciany types who always (when did this become a thing?) do their top buttons up, but I’m sure I’ll make do. It’s a four minute walking commute. And yet…:
Besides, I know that if everything goes tits-up again I can always move back home.
KIDDING mum, kidding. Geez…