Life at Home

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Living at home may seem like a hard adjustment after being relatively independent while at school. Your hours may differ from your parents, you may feel limited by obligation (or house rules) in what you can do and when. But here’s the thing: your parents don’t have to let you stay at their house, so you need to suck up big time. To successfully live at home and keep your sanity you have to…

(Rule #1) THANK YOUR PARENTS. A LOT: If you’re like me, your parents are absolutely awesome. They wouldn’t dream of charging you rent (at least while you don’t have a job), they’re fun to hang out with, they take you out to dinner, buy you anything you need from Target (emphasis on need), and don’t set strict rules. Sure, it’s expected I don’t go out after dark without telling them, or spend every night out drinking with friends, or ask them to take me clothes shopping or pay for those cute heels I saw on Amazon. But within all reason, my parents let me make my own choices and do what I need to do.

That’s not to say that I don’t have responsibilities around the house. Just like before I left for college, I have chores I’m expected to do: keep my room from exploding, do my own laundry, clean my bathroom when it needs it, and generally help keep the house in order. Now that I’m older and know how to cook, I’m also expected to help my mom make meals– something that I enjoy and would do anyway.

So here’s a second part to rule #1: DON’T BE A S**T HEAD. Even if like me, you don’t have significant responsibilities around the house, don’t take advantage of your parents’ hospitality. They’re helping you out during a rut in the road, but if you expect them to do everything for you and you do nothing for them, they will remember. Case in point: I recently saw an episode of “Property Virgins” (a house-hunting show based in Atlanta) and was disgusted to see a girl my age moving out of her parents house. What offended me was her reason for leaving: her parents complained that she went out too late at night to drink and party, and that she kept her laundry lying around the hallway. It turned out she bought a place she couldn’t afford, but her parents were so eager to get her out of the house that they paid the remainder.

In addition to helping out around the house and keeping your stuff secluded to your room, a great way to show that you’re thankful for your parents’ hospitality is to just spend time with them. I make it a rule to only be out of the house for dinner a maximum of three nights a week– this includes the typical two nights of the weekend I stay over at my boyfriend’s place. I know a lot of people have a more active social life than I do, which is great, but remember whose home you come back to every night. Have dinner with your parents whenever you can, watch a movie or TV with them at night, play board games or scrabble like when you were younger. Even if your parents don’t have a lot of free time, a good meal or a nice beer/glass of wine/ cocktail after work with them is enough time to show them that you care what’s going on with them, and that you’re happy that you’re home.

(Rule #2) THE WAY TO CONVINCE AN EMPLOYER YOU’RE MATURE AND RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO HIRE, IS TO FIRST BELIEVE IT YOURSELF: Honestly; just keep yourself neat, contained and organized mentally and physically. Act like the adult that you are and not the kid you were the last time you lived at home. And here’s one thing I’ve learned during the month and a half I’ve been at home: Getting bored, fat, and lazy is easier than you think!

Part 1: GET YOURSELF ORGANIZED. Mentally and physically, just take a breath and get yourself in focus. Organize your computer files, clean our your closet, give away anything from your pre-college and college life that you don’t need anymore. This is a transition time for a reason. Use it.

Part 2: MAKE A SCHEDULE. (I’ll talk more about this later) I’m not talking about a planner like your crazy type-A friends had back in high school with every second of every hour of every day booked with studying or extracurriculars or volunteer work. No one in our situation can do that with their life, things change too suddenly; job interviews pop up last-minute, you see an opportunity to get some volunteer experience, family errands take longer than planned. It’s just life. What I am saying is that it’s too easy to just be the lazy unemployed bum; last up and first to bed, eating cheese balls out of the container three meals a day in your bathrobe and pajamas while you lay on the couch watching TV all day (if you get the reference, I salute you). If nothing else, set an alarm that you’ll wake up to at a decent hour (Think: between 8 and 9 am) and change into real grown-up clothes and at least have a daily chore or goal to get done.

Subpart 1: GET IN SHAPE. For me, this is a great time to get in shape, so I try to get myself outside to run first thing in the morning 3 to 4 days a week. I have two fitness apps on my Kindle Fire that push me 4 days a week to achieve more crunches and push-ups. Whatever your fitness level, having no set work schedule is a great opportunity to force yourself into better shape.

Subpart 2: PROJECTS. The golden ticket to impressing any interviewer is to have some awesome thing that you do outside of your job search. Even if you don’t think it’s all that awesome, the interviewer will be impressed that you’re actually doing something with your life and that your interests aren’t limited to finding a way to secure a salary. Again, I’ll talk a lot more about this later, but just remember that having hobbies and projects don’t just kill time, but they make you a more interesting person , which makes you more likely to get remembered and then hired.

(Rule #3) MANAGE THE PURGATORY CONUNDRUM: If you’re like me, you have a lot of friends who have already graduated. They all have jobs and have moved on, and you don’t get to talk to them much, When you do, you feel like they are part of the real world, and you’re still stuck behind. Also, if you’re like me, you have a lot of friends who are still in school. Whether it’s undergrad or grad school, it’s still the same. You still hang out, but it’s like you’re completely different animals now. They’re always talking about their classes or the next frat party, while you’re worrying about your swiftly dwindling bank account and whether you’ll be able to afford the next round. This is the purgatory conundrum: you feel like you’ve grown out of the college lifestyle, but because you can’t be self-sufficient and independent yet, you don’t feel like you belong with others who have graduated. You hate making small-talk at check-outs because inevitably it leads to something about jobs or school, and you just don’t want to talk about it. I mean, it’s mortifying to admit to a complete stranger that, “Yes I graduated from X prestigious university. No I don’t have a job, I’m living with my parents.”

So here’s what I’ve decided: the purgatory conundrum is inevitable. But you don’t have to let it weigh you down. After an awful night in tears over this feeling of not belonging anywhere, I picked myself up and made a promise. Instead of focusing on feeling like I don’t belong, I have to focus on how I can make myself belong. That means doing what I can to make myself independent (lots of job applications, whether the job is something I want to do for a career or not) and keeping myself from sinking into feeling sorry for myself. I have to be in control, I have to help myself. (And who needs to hang out with a bunch of rowdy drunk college kids anyway? They can buy their own rounds, thanks. I’ll just have a glass of wine at home with my parents :).)

(Rule #4) TAKE ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT: No matter who it’s from, not all advice is right or right for you (including what’s in here, though I hope you’ll find it helpful). From Charles Wheelan’s 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said, “You’re parents don’t want what’s best for you.” I translate that to ‘You’re friends–family–self-help-book–random-person-at-the-checkout don’t want what’s best for you’. And by that Wheelan means this: those who give advice don’t want what’s best for you, they want what’s good for you. As he says, “No parent wants to watch a child flounder or fail. There is a natural instinct to protect children from risk and discomfort– and therefore to urge safe choices.” (Wheelan page 90).  No one knows you better than you. At this stage you are constantly barraged with advice from people who mean well. I’m not saying ignore it, I’m simply saying think it through and decided if that bit of advice will work for you.

Case in point: many recent grad self-help books advise taking a month or several months or even a year to travel the world. While I would love to travel (see my travel blog here), I can’t justify putting my life on hold to travel. I’d be alone, and I’d be spending money that I would rather see stay safely in my saving’s account until I want to do something important, like buy a house or a car, get married or have kids. Some people can live day-to-day and spend their money like that. I can’t. So that goes in with the good advice that just isn’t quite right for me.

So when you unwrap the post graduation presents and find a self-help book, or go to a family gathering and have your ear talked off by your aunt who just knows that if you submit 4 applications a day you’ll have a job by next Tuesday here’s my (the irony) advice. Smile, say thank you and mean it– they mean what they say and do to be helpful and it just might be, then store the piece of advice in your brain for later consideration. Read the self-help books, and know that the author is meaning the best for you, but only take from it what will move you further toward whatever goal you want to achieve in your career and life

**Citation: Wheelan, Charles J. 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.**

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