Last week, I found myself moving back into my mum’s house in the leafy green ‘burbs of Melbourne, Australia. Apart from the sheer physical exhaustion of taking two days off of work to physically move all the stuff that I accumulated in the past eight-month period, I had to and still very much am continuing to confront myself in so many uncomfortable but necessary ways.
I decided last year I’d move out to a very hipster and Hasidic (literally, it’s a game sometimes to differentiate the two) area in Melbourne, which is a cosmopolitan mix of backpackers, families, secular, and Orthodox Jews. I thought moving in with another 20-something girl would put me in the category of a Real Adulting Woman Who’s Getting Her Shit Togetha.
In actual fact, I was working three part-time jobs—two retail and one in a Jewish organization. I decided to pursue an MA in Journalism as I thought this was my calling. But I chose it for all the wrong reasons and decided the cut-throat field wasn’t my cup of tea.
At the end of the year, I decided I was DONE with my housemate* who seemed at the time like a bratty little sister and who was a vegan/eco fashion student. At that point in my life, with the uncertainty about my own direction, it seemed even more claustrophobic and anxiety producing to live in a small two bedroom apartment, in a block which was hella noisy with loud families. The building was sandwiched between a Russian Chabad and men’s Kollel/Yeshiva. I just needed to RUN outta there.
My “successful” dating life at this time was with a handsome JSwipe guy I dated for about five months who, the whole time, claimed to have Jewish roots, but it was so murky that whilst I’m not such a conservative woman, it kind of plagued our relationship before it had a chance to take off. Besides, he had so many other personal issues to deal with that he wasn’t really ready to be with someone else… fail.
So I moved back home. But, after a couple of weeks of living with my mum, I decided that for her sanity and mine I had to move out again. Living at home signaled the end of my social and dating life. And a girl’s gotta have sex…
So I Facebook messaged some “friends” who I thought would know of a room and stumbled upon a Jewish girl who had a room not far away. The place was cheaper and seemed like a perfect pad.
Eight months later, this sanctuary turned into a NIGHTMARE. One housemate was a doctor who worked lots of night shifts and didn’t spend much time at home. When she did, she wouldn’t really care to interact on a deeper level and spent Shabbat every week at her parent’s home.
Housemate number two was a high school teacher: responsible, into yoga, cooking, cleaning. All good. At the start she ran past a couple house rules about the disposal of rubbish. Seemed pretty doable—a recycling bin for regular paper, plastics, and tin items; a bag for paper bags; a jar for rubbish bags and all soft plastics that could be recycled at our local supermarket; and a bag for reusable plastic bags (do you have a headache yet?). Oh, and also containers that she’d insist we put fruit and veg scraps into so she could compost them.
At first I got with the program. Then it got a bit intense with her rules of how to dispose my stuff. Plus she was extremely anal about where things were placed in the kitchen, the bathroom, and the living room. She kept reminding me of the “shared spaces” and that they are for everybody so we should keep our mess to a minimum. Communal this and communal that—oy vey, give me a break, I’m a proud capitalist who likes her own things and her own space to put them in.
Then we had a full blown argument one Sunday morning. I’d never argued with anyone like that other than my mother. I just couldn’t deal anymore and she couldn’t deal that I couldn’t deal with her strict rules. I blurted out everything that annoyed me about her “system” and that even though I was paying my fair share of the rent, how I felt like I was living in her house. I ended up crying. Her boyfriend (he was there way too much) witnessed everything.
It settled a few things for me: This was not the home that I had set out to create for myself. It was a housemate situation which had rapidly deteriorated, or one which was never right from the beginning but which I bared for too long.
I tried to tolerate this situation for a couple more weeks. Kept telling myself I have my freedom, I can go out and do whatever I want, bring whoever I want home with me, and eat (almost) whatever I wanted to eat. But then it started to feel like I was in an abusive relationship where the victim keeps trying to justify their situation, finding all the pros to outweigh the cons and overshadow their true pain.
To top it all off, we had a surprise housemate addition (no, not the boyfriend). The doctor housemate left to do a remote placement and found someone hastily last minute. Things started well until I learned she was a heavy drinker, smoker, bipolar, and depressed (there is NOTHING wrong with these so very common conditions, but there is when it is not managed and affects other people).
I bit the bullet. I wrote a note in red ink and stuck it up on the wall at the end of my bed that said, “Tomorrow you’ll tell them that you’re moving out.” I told them the next evening (they didn’t seem shocked or really phased) and that night after a dinner with a close girlfriend I put together a post looking for a new place and shared it on every relevant page I knew.
The next day I woke up so desperate to leave that I called my mum (my poor mum) and even though she had been struck with a severe flu (she was hospitalised a day earlier), the chutzpah-dik girl that I am told her I would train to her place, borrow her car, and start getting my things OUTTA THERE. It was like it all culminated into this very urgent need for me to escape what I thought would be my mimi-paradise.
I feel like the last couple of years have been geared towards this imminent quarter-life crisis. There were so many things I was so very dissatisfied with about my life and myself as a person. In the past two years I’ve moved twice (now three times I guess), I’ve had five different jobs, a string of lovers, and too many awful online interactions with men on too many dating apps to count.
And so, I find myself back at my mother’s place.
It’s both strange, a bit isolating, yet safe for me right now.
I think it’s very easy to see returning to a place where you grew up as failure sometimes. I always thought that by living away from my mum, I had made it. But I hadn’t in so many visible ways. I thought if I kept living like I did things would just fall into place. But they don’t. Not always. Particularly when you know the situation isn’t sitting right in your gut.
I think with our generation there are infinite opportunities for how we establish ourselves in careers, relationships, friendships, and living situations. There are also infinite ways and opportunities to make ourselves happy and fulfilled. Infinite more things to try before we buy. And infinite ways to judge others and ourselves.
I must honestly say that it’s hard for me to open my mouth and tell teachers at the school where I currently work that I’ve moved back home. It’s hard for me to tell guys on dating apps. But, in my heart, it’s the right place for me at this moment in my life. A place where I know I am welcomed, loved, and accepted (somewhat). It makes me feel settled and I don’t wake up anymore with clenched teeth. I’m happy for now and I have mental space which can be occupied by my new course (Graduate Certificate in Marketing) and career planning rather than petty disputes with strangers that I used to know.
And I’ll figure out a way to have sex (sorry, Mum).
*Let me say that I only wish her love and success, she’s going to be a cracking fashion designer one day.
Illustration via Flickr/hyoin min