A friend once told me that they—the experts-that-be—call my generation “the Boomerang Generation” because after moving out, we’ve all ended up back home at least once. Clearly, I’m just more efficient than the others because I never left. I jokingly (and sometimes dismissively) defend my failure to launch by citing a lack of need to, the availability of familial support, the economy, and of course, free room-and-board. But the truth lies between the logic.
I’m a collector. I collect stories, dreams, words, knickknacks, pens, hats, corks, clothes, people, and phobias. The latter is the only one that happens both unintentionally and effortlessly. I’m terrified of “what-ifs” and haunted by what has yet to come. Burglars, fires, car crashes, and even creeping crawlies compel me to mask my mortification beneath the guise of grownupness and a gratitude for the familiar, for family and the memories firmly affixed to our home. The world, the thought of being in it alone, yoked by independence and trudging up the treacherous mountainside of adulthood, staggered by a 9-to-5 and whipped with the worries of continued existence (rent-food-light fixtures-leaky pipes-noisy neighbors-the needs of a car-a knock on the door at midnight) on top of the weird weather patterns sparked in the bipolar blend of chemicals and synapses science calls my brain, is…too much. It stays the first step and steals breath when the notion of the last lingers too near.
But to say that the worst of what-could-be awaits me only out in the world is an overgeneralization of the threat, one which overlooks a narrower needle, a needle that pierces deeper for its perpetual presence. At home too, I feel fear. It’s muted, muzzled by the dogs who bark at the slightest shadow on the walkway, decreased by those who sleep (but could wake with a well-placed scream) upstairs during my nocturnal sojourns through laptops and televisions. It’s never worse than when they leave, when my parents head off to Arizona once a month, and move the dogs to the vet’s kennel because my ever-changing sleep schedule makes tending to them impossible. When they’re gone, I’m here alone, left to survive in a jungle of houseplants and cavernous rooms, hounded by every unknown sound at night, ever flicker of maybe-movement twitching out of sight. The plight is worsened by a writer’s mind, an inventive mind that tracks down every possibility, every cause of every concerning occurrence, lessening my odds of survival with worst-case scenarios. By the third day, fear finds in me a breeding ground and readily propagates, hunting my heartbeats for sustenance until each must skip to survive, racing over ribs and repelling reason that would slow them. I carry a pencil for protection (a weapon few would worry about if a woman held it loosely in hand). I realize how outrageous this sounds to saner people, to those who have only occasional moments of weakness, to those who were forced to overcome childish fears to win the trophy of independence. Yet these are the walls I’ve built around me, they form the box that blocks me from a life I could and should lead.
I hold no satisfaction with the state of things. I hold no desire to continue to dwell amongst fear-emboldened excuses, to cleave to the support inherent in an age I’ve long since outgrown. It’s not enough for me, it’s not enough for my parents. I want to gain the skills, the bravery necessary to claim independence. Unfortunately, I’ve been saying that for years, to the extent that it’s become a mocking personal moniker, an empty slogan. So what makes this declaration different? This does. This blog, you, my theoretical readers. It’s my hope that the outside pressure and expectations will push me beyond the borders of the self-sewn apron strings that bind me and into something better, someplace endlessly bigger. It is clear to me now that change must come from without as well as from within. And change must come. After all, no good story is static, and as a writer, I would hate to disappoint.
Rather than Tarantino-ing it, I’ll start my story with a bit of background otherwise known as the Beginning. If we were to take a glance as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, from birth I would be placed on the third tier, which deals with belongingness and social needs. I never wanted for food or safety. My parents toiled amongst technology and the top-secret, building a better life for themselves and their babies-to-be. They met and worked together at Lockheed Martin in California building a career, in my father’s case, which eventually led us to Colorado. With their accomplishments and persistence came means and with those means, I was spoiled.
It began in part because I was the baby (my sister is ten years my senior) and in part because of how my parents were raised. Both teachers, my father’s parents raised him and my uncle in a world of scholastic achievement and discipline, instilling in him the value of hard work and the pride of a self-made man. My mother in contrast, was the baby of a bigger and occasionally turbulent family, at the head of which was my exactingly touch-the-TV-to-make-sure-it’s-cool-upon-arriving-home strict Grandfather. In both cases, my parents took to heart the things they lacked and sought to provide them to their own children whenever possible. A couple of months back, whilst discussing some of the topics that spawned this blog from their bilious depths, Dad said, “My greatest weakness is that I want my children to be happy.” It struck me with the blunt force of epiphany, embedding his wince-inducing expression of resignation and disappointed acceptance on the wall of my memory, a permanent monument to my codependent failures and yet another reason to overcome them. My Mom shares a similar fault to his: she has always been compelled to wrap us in a world-blocking blanket of affection—both emotional and material—vowing to never repeat the mistakes of her own parents. Alas, it is from these good intentions that a monster comprised of equal parts gluttony and guilt was born.
I was a horrifying brat from birth on through the better part of High School. Some would argue that I still am. I discovered at a very young age my propensity for logic, arguments, and typhoon summoning temper tantrums. The word “No” was temporary at best, a weak-willed obstacle in the way of my constant overindulgence and unearned demands. My parents found it easier to clear the clouds and wipe away my tears with wants than to stand their ground and weather the wailing storm. Unfortunately, this instilled in me a sense of profound entitlement. What need did I have of work when my desires were so easily gratified through battles? This belief extended to my academic career as well. In elementary school primarily, but even on through high school to a lesser extent, my Mom held my homework-hand, guiding the pencil with her own, giving answers wittingly and otherwise. In terms of chores, they were optional and my Dad consistently paid more than their worth. Cleaning the dog run alone was $20 task completed in half as many minutes. The truths of this past taunt me.
I do not condone the benefits of my privileged life; they have prevented me from living one of my own, on my own. Yet my awareness of the issue should not be mistaken for a condemnation, it is merely an analysis of cause and effect. Sadly, my parents do not understand. Despite how many times I explain it, my parents think I blame them. No amount of carefully cultivated words, levelheaded reasoning, psychological references, or frustrated, “No that’s not what I mea—“s will make them accept that it is not blame. It is inference, it is the logical deduction that led me to lap up the bounty of bread crumbs, following them back to the kindness-caressed but ultimately careless child who dropped them. As my mom says, “It is what it is.” No parent can predict the path their actions will pave for their child. Maybe they’ll eventually grasp my guilt, my understanding, my shared responsibility for what happened. After all, it’s not as though I’m free of fault. My eyes never closed on the light of my selfishness, they never turned from trials I put people through, from the unnecessary force exerted to obtain trivialities and avoid work. Choices were made (often in the form of mistakes) and ultimately, the consequences are mine to bear, and mine to best. I love my parents and appreciate what they’ve done and continue to do regardless of the outcome, and hopefully I’ll be able to fix what I’ve broken and better what I haven’t. With a will repurposed towards working my world into what it should have been all along, into a place where I pull my weight and continues to push forward, I’m going to take the first step.
It all starts here, with a blog, a brat, and a bit of hope.