I keep returning home to my childhood bed. I keep returning home to be happy

On a recent Saturday night, I spent an hour lecturing some poor man about gender politics — it wasn’t my fault!

I keep returning home to my childhood bed. I keep returning home to be happy

He said he wasn’t a feminist and I took it as my mission to convert him — have you accepted Feminism as your personal saviour yet? — because I was both exceedingly drunk and exceedingly opinionated which is always an interesting combination.

Finally (probably to shut me up) he made his move.

Him: Are we going back to yours then?

Me: I mean, we can if you want to sit at my kitchen table and enjoy a cooked breakfast with my parents in the morning. I must warn you though, my mother is lovely but my father is 6’3 and works with extremely sharp knives.

Me: Hello? Where are you going? COME BACK.

I am 32 years of age and I still live at home with my parents. This is nothing new these days — the media is full of stories of ‘Boomerang Kids’, the Millennials in their 20s and 30s who have been forced back to their childhood homes because of unemployment and extortionate rent prices; unable to get a mortgage because the banks are overly cautious following the excesses of the Celtic Tiger.

We are the generation who are atoning for the sins of those who came before us and our punishment is sitting on the couch every evening, flanked by a parent on either side, watching Fair City and drinking milky tea.

It’s unfair, and I have so much sympathy for people who are desperate to move out of their family home and are unable to do so. However, I feel intensely guilty whenever I’m asked to feature in a piece on the Boomerang Generation because while I may still be living at home in my 30s I don’t have to do so. I want to. This is my choice.

It wasn’t always like this. When I first moved home from New York at the age of 27, I didn’t have a job, I had broken up with a long-term boyfriend, and I had approximately €38 in my bank account.

I was, for the first time in my life, completely unsure of what my next step was going to be, but financial constraints necessitated a move back to Clonakilty to take shelter.

I had, up until that point, been constantly striving, constantly working towards a goal, and I felt burnt out.

I had come up with the idea for what would become my first novel, Only Ever Yours, while living in the States, and I decided to take a year out to attempt to write the damn thing.

(I am aware of how privileged I am to have been able to do so — there are other people who are no doubt far more talented than I am who might never have that luxury due to familial obligations or their socio-economic background or a myriad of other reasons.)

That was over five years ago and in that time I have moved out of home and six months later, I moved right back in.

It’s strange, in a way, because as a teenager I spent my entire life dreaming of escaping from Clonakilty and small-town life and now as an adult I’m infatuated with it.

I love how easy everything is, how much slower and more pleasant the pace of life is.

I appreciate how close I am to Inchydoney beach, and how I am far enough away from Dublin to resist the lure of all the launch/event invites I receive on a daily basis.

It’s easy to work here, the quality of stillness in the air breathing life into my lungs, giving me space to breathe and think, granting me the time I need to magic words out of the nothingness.

There were teething problems, of course. I spent the first six months at home regressing to a teenager, slamming doors and shouting “Well, I never asked to be BORN, did I?” down the stairs while my parents rolled their eyes in disbelief.

Most of my friends live in Dublin and I miss the ease of meeting them for dinner or drinks or an exhibition at IMMA or to see the latest play that ‘everyone’ is talking about. There is a certain shame attached to admitting to living with my parents that I can’t quite shake off, accompanied by a creeping suspicion that I am doing life ‘wrong’.

Surely at this stage I should be a Proper Adult? Surely I shouldn’t be left feeling this utterly overwhelmed and scared after a meeting with my accountant?

Do other 32-year-olds need to hide under their duvet for ten minutes and hyperventilate after a meeting with their bank managers to discuss investment options?

Probably not. They probably don’t need their parents to hold their hands through major life decisions either. But the truth is — I do.

While I couldn’t be happier with the way in which my career is progressing, ‘success’, such as it is, has brought its own challenges.

I don’t have a blueprint for this, I don’t come from a family of artists or creative people who can tell me what to expect in the future or advise me on how to navigate this new existence.

What I do have are parents who love me unconditionally and offer me a level of support that I would find difficult to cope without.

They are the safety net beneath me, encouraging me to take risks and to follow my dreams, always knowing that they will catch me if I fall.

As my father said to me when I contemplated giving up writing after a particularly virulent attack by trolls on social media, “Lou, we don’t mind what you do or don’t do. Ten years ago, we watched you lying in a hospital bed and we thought you were going to die. To us, you are a miracle standing up. All we want is for you to be happy.”

And so, I keep returning home to my childhood bed, and my writing desk, and to the open arms of my mother and father.

I keep returning home to be happy.

Louise O’ Neill is the author of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It

@oneilllo

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