Facebook had the courtesy to remind me this week that it had been a year since I’d last written about my post-grad experience. Given that I have friends who are currently moving out and starting to go to work, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but somehow, it does.
Graduating from college felt like half a lifetime ago already, but the new obstacles I’ve been encountering this past year — moving back home (and moving back away from home), beginning work, and struggling to feel at peace with my life at home and with my friends — are all still very present in my life.
Some of these concerns have changed form: A new cycle of maintaining friendships has begun as more people move on and transition into new phases of their lives. Though I’m no longer physically at home, I’m trying to continue communicating regularly with my parents, and moving out of the house has brought its own set of worries in light of this.
While catching up with a couple of my friends today, we ended up lingering on this topic for some time. Following graduation, many of our fellow graduated Berkeley friends moved home and found jobs there. Those who did end up staying in the Bay Area (the wider Bay Area, including the East Bay, South Bay, Peninsula, etc.) were often those who had grown up in these parts of town. They were still technically returning home.
This makes a lot of sense. With rising rent prices, student loans, and other economic challenges and burdens, it’s easier for recent graduates of high school and college to continue living with their parents to avoid incurring their own set of living fees — rent, food costs, so on and so forth.
That being said, however, living with parents also comes with a lot of changes, especially for young Asian Americans.
Asian American families have long been mocked for having stricter, harsher cultures at home. Children are required to stay home to study and practice the piano, they’re not allowed to stay out past an early curfew, and so the list of jibes goes on. This isn’t to play on Asian American stereotypes; it is, oftentimes, the truth and a reality that got passed down from generation to generation, based on the environments in which our parents and their parents were raised.
In short, Asian American households often have different perspectives — on education, friends, and family, for instance — from their Caucasian/American counterparts.
Thus, returning home for young Asian Americans doesn’t simply mean saving money. It often means giving up some of the freedoms you had while at university. These might be freedoms large or small, but regardless of size, they do exist. Even if you have your own car, no curfew, and parents lenient enough to let you roam through the house and around town at will, there is still an obligation most Asian Americans will feel to return home and to spend time with their parents.
It’s a practice rooted in our cultures; our parents and our elders are to be respected. While we might always receive verbal permission to go out, going out too much will eventually seem flippant and rude.
This experience, of course, may also be one that all other millennials experience upon moving home. However, it is one I hear most acutely from my Asian American peers: How do you strike up a balance of enjoying your 20s by hanging out with friends, but also paying the proper respect to your parents at home by spending enough time with them?
The answer to this question isn’t one that can be prescribed. The shape of every parent-child relationship will be different, even for “stereotypical Asian American” people. This is something that I continue to grapple with, even after going to a therapist and talking to her about it in depth for over half a year. It’s something a co-worker, as well as several friends both close and distant have contemplated.
Of course, the most obvious answer — open communication — isn’t one that can be readily applied. Unfortunately, most times, Asian American parents and adults aren’t accustomed to the easy levels of communication that their millennial children have developed from living in American culture. In Asian American households, it’s not common to talk openly about feelings or even how to communicate, which is often something that’s necessary to clear muddy waters.
That being said, however, being bold enough to put pressure on having open communication is necessary to do. Even if parents are unwilling to partake in the conversation, having the courage to express and clarify the thoughts, concerns, and emotions on your side of the story is enough to prompt at least a small response from your parents.
This practice isn’t meant to encourage you to always defend your actions, to shirk responsibilities and family duties. It’s simply a method of facilitating communication. Just as we are fretting over how to relate to our parents as adults but still children under the roof of their house; our parents are often undergoing the converse struggle.
They realize that we’re adults, they know we’ve gone to college and become better educated — but they still best recognize us as their children and their intentions are still to protect us and parent us to the best of their ability. They just don’t know how to be the best parents to an adult.
Opening lines of communication at home might be uncomfortable and stressful, yes, but it’s often the only way for us to realize our parents’ worries and cares for us.