When Old Becomes New: Moving Back Home

Hello friends, and apologies for the radio silence —

It’s been a wild last few weeks, and even though I’ve had twice the number of thoughts in my head as I normally do, it’s been difficult to untangle them into anything comprehensible.

Post-grad life is a little too much of everything and a little too deficient in everything else. In other words, leaving the predictable structure of four-year-plans and CalCentral (even if it’s a pain to navigate now) to enter the nebulous region of the “real world” is daunting. Exciting. But daunting. 

As a result, all of my recent writing has been married to ambiguity. I’m living up my English major title because of this, but ambiguity doesn’t necessarily make for comprehensible writing.

Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Combs | Crew

I consulted a friend about my writing conundrums and thankfully, she helped me find a new direction: documenting the post-grad experience. I know my life won’t resemble everyone else’s, but I agree with my friend. This period of time does seem to be “a transition a lot of people don’t necessarily talk about” — so why not? (Thanks, Jocelyn.)

I moved home about two weeks ago. Actually, a record number of millenials are moving home. 

And “home” here does refer to home home, where you may or may not have the space of your childhood bedroom preserved just as you left it after graduating high school — because let’s be honest, even if you were around for a month of winter break (I’ll miss you, Berkeley), you were still basically living out of your luggage because you knew you’d be off again, if not sooner, then definitely later. 

I’m one of the lucky ones. My bed — and my stuffed animals — always waited for me. (One of my close friends from high school went home — only to realize that her sister had taken over her room, and her mom had taken over her sister’s room…) But even with the luxury of having your own space and its familiar comforts, it feels weird to be moving back.

The first photo I ever took on my fancy camera | Photo by Courtney Cheng

After graduation, I came back to a bedroom that had no sign of my college self and no space for my post-college self. My dresser was full of clothes at least five years out of style and my bookcase was filled with young adult novels I barely remembered reading.

And so for the first few days of being home, you end up sitting alone in an empty house because your parents are at work, and your mind starts to wonder about your friends in those cities abroad, back on the familiar haunts of campus, or in their own childhood bedrooms across the country. But after a while, you get tired of rewinding through years of nostalgia, and you start purging so you can move in. Or rather, move back in.

All Graduated and that.

It’s odd, seeing memories of your recent life within old walls. It’s a slight out-of-body experience to insert your post-grad self into the same space that your elementary, middle, and high school selves occupied, particularly after your college self was so careful to not leave a trace for the past four years.

You realize how much has changed.  

And you realize, a bit heart-wrenchingly, how much has not changed at all. When you hang the photo of you walking across the stage to get your [fake] diploma beside all your other school photos, you can still trace the same set chin of your preschool smile in this new shot.

And when you find the “just because” gift from your boyfriend in 9th grade tucked away next to the nerdy prom invite you received in 11th grade, you’re still overwhelmed with as much love and fondness as you felt when you first received them. (If either of you gentlemen are reading this, thank you for keeping in touch over the years. I miss your faces and hope I can see them soon.)

You can’t linger here though. You can’t loaf at home like you’ve always done because you need to go to bed before midnight to get up early the next morning to go to work. And you remind yourself that you need to purchase gym membership and message your friends back because now you can’t just meet them at the corner of campus to catch up between class —

And you also have to eat. 

Having home-cooked food every day again is the best thing that’s happened since SpoonRocket, GrubHub, and the slew of food delivery startup apps became a thing. There is no denying this fact. There is also no denying the fact that living with your parents and talking to them about work, news, and a life that doesn’t revolve around grades is wonderful.

Elmwood Cafe | Photo by Courtney Cheng

But it’s still a change. Because even kitchen-hopping, eating for one in front of your brother’s borrowed Netflix account on top beside your thesis, and making spontaneous meal plans with friends are habits you can no longer keep.

It’s a blessing, a curse, and an open invitation to start something new.

I’ve been struggling to find the mental space to think about cooking, but as I start to settle back into things — figuring out how I want to divide and where I want to dedicate my time — I will refigure it out. I can already feel myself itching to get there.

But until then, ambiguity (and patience with the ambiguity) it shall be.

To all my friends, old and older, who’ve reached out in the past few weeks — thanks for thinking of me. A special shout out goes to the high school and youth orchestra friends who’ve been in touch for the first time in years. I can’t wait to see you all. You should’ve seen the smile on my face when I saw your name light up my phone. 

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