There’s a line from one of my favorite songs, and it goes, “Just ’cause you’re crazy doesn’t mean that you’re free.” I love this anti-definition of freedom and how it provides a deeper look at what freedom really means. It doesn’t mean just how you act.
I’m not quite sure how I define freedom. I think it has to do with deep self-awareness, so that you’re not building your own cage. I think freedom hinges on knowing what limitations you place on yourself because of fear or cowardice, and breaking free of those boundaries.
I think it has to do with honesty and hard work, making sure that you meet goals and go after the things you want despite obstacles. I think freedom has to do with shattering expectations and rejecting stereotypes, for yourself and for others.
I think freedom has less to do with what you do, and more with how you do it. Even if limitations are placed on you that you can’t control, like your financial status or your geographic location in the world, freedom is possible through honesty and strength. It’s a state of mind.
So working within those boundaries when you live at home is sort of like straining against parental bonds, learning who you are even while you feel sheltered and protected, and having the nerve to feel shaken sometimes.
A while back I wrote about the benefits of living at home, and there are many. Financial perks, family perks, comfort perks, all of those pertain in this situation and make living at home, as a twenty-something, entirely worth it.
But there are subtle, almost insidious ways that living in your childhood home messes with your twenty-something brain, yearning as it is for freedom and self-exploration.
My behavior is more conservative than it may otherwise be
My parents are wonderful, tolerant people who let me come and go, albeit not without telling them where I’m going to be. I also never lie. So with that said, I almost never truly indulge my less well-behaved tendencies, simply because in the back of my mind, deep down in my subconscious, I know that when my mother asks what I did on Saturday night and who I was with, I don’t want to disappoint her. I don’t want her to think lesser of me for being reckless and “free.”
That possible reckless behavior also comes packaged with no small measure of guilt, because my mother also waits up for me when I go out. Her voice is always in my head, making me aware of the choices I make, when I would much rather have my own judgment be the voice I listen to.
I feel like a pseudo-adult sometimes
When you live with your parents, at least if your parents are like mine, their default mode is to take care of you despite even your most strenuous protests. I love that aspect of living at home, even if I feel like it stunts my adult growth at times.
Like, I feel like I’m still a teenager because my default thinking, which is so false, is that my only responsibilities are to clean my room and tidy up my bathroom. Because they just do most of the chores including the cooking, not only do I not have to do much, but I also resent being asked. I still revert to that annoying sullen teenager at times, because this limbo living situation messes with my pseudo-adult brain.
When my sister and her husband went on vacation, I apartment-sat for them a few days at a time, and not only did I revel in the conventional freedom, but I also took pleasure and pride in maintaining a home, even if it was only for a weekend or two. Because I knew I didn’t have anyone even hypothetically cleaning up after me, I felt more responsible, capable, and like an actual adult.
I make smaller life decisions with more frustrating circumspection
You wouldn’t think it was such an important choice where I decide to get lunch one day, or how/when I choose to cook meals for myself, or what I want to watch on TV.
But when you know your parents are waiting at home, and they may be disappointed if you don’t choose to have dinner with them, or if they disapprove of you taking Chipotle out for the third time that week, or if you want to watch a movie they wouldn’t like you watching, you sort of second-guess everything you do. Or at least, I tend to.
I try to make them happy even with my small, seemingly inconsequential decisions, because their approval means so much to me, and because their voices are always there in the back of my head, nudging me toward the things I know they’d approve of.
I don’t mean to complain. Truly, my living situation is pretty sweet.
But when I think about freedom, I think about how much different my life would be — how different I would be — if I lived by myself, or with roommates my own age. I think we all need some years, preferable these twenty-something years that are so characterized by inbetweenness and growing pains, to be “free.”
So living at home definitely puts up some roadblocks between your college self and your real adult self. It’s that feeling of inbetweenness that I characterize as freedom at this point in my life.
Then again, when I’m moved out and paying rent, I’m sure I’ll be wishing for my parents to wait up for me and bring home pizza for me, and to have no responsibilities other than cleaning my room and spending a lovely evening having dinner with my parents.