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Help! I Moved Back Home After College!

I no longer had access to living within walking distance of my best friends, home rules meant curfews and new responsibilities, and I somehow had to manage to rebuild a social life in a place I hadn’t lived in for so long.

Girl home surrounded by boxes
Shutterstock/ Lysenko Andrii

Among college graduates who go on to PhD programs and law school, backpack through Europe, and land dream jobs, there is that forgotten minority that has to do the dreadful act. The act whose hurt can only be truly felt when experienced firsthand. That’s right, it’s none other than moving back home after college. 

Don’t get me wrong. To many, home is a safe and sacred place. The very origin of where we grew up and experienced some of our best memories. To others…not so much. Whether we have good or bad memories from home, the truth is that this event leads to a giant disconnect. Take me for example. While I grew up with my very supportive parents in the LA suburbs, college gave me a plethora of firsts. It provided the chance to experience independence, learn who I was, and establish a life of my own for the very first time. Yet fast forward 4 years and BAM! I found myself unwillingly back at home in the wake of the pandemic.

Anywhere but Home…

I no longer had access to living within walking distance of my best friends. Home rules meant curfews and new responsibilities. I somehow had to rebuild a social life in a place I hadn’t lived in for so long. The community I spent 4 years building was abandoned as I was catapulted back in time to my teenage self who shared a room with my twin sister. 

With a reverse culture shock shaking us to our core, coming home after college can sometimes be an intimidating and demoralizing venture. In the end, we are sometimes left feeling stuck and hopeless. 

Here’s a silver lining: It won’t be like this forever! You can find ways to rebuild your identity and establish independence even while living at home.

Let’s talk about it. 

Why This Feeling?

For many of us who feel guilty for not wanting to move back home with family after college, the nagging question we continue to ask ourselves is: why? 

And while some of us know exactly the reason why home is less than ideal to move back to, most times we find our everchanging selves at war with familiarity and old ghosts from our past. Don’t feel guilty for not wanting to move back home; it’s only natural. But let’s take a look at reasons why moving home makes us feel uncomfortable and “out of place”. 

1. Less Privacy & Independence

girl staring out window
credit: shutterstock/ fizkes

Sadly, one of the biggest factors ripped from us once we move back home is our privacy and independence. Where we once felt free as a bird with the ability to wake up at any time, send endless Amazon packages to our front door, and order take-out pad thai at 3 am, the truth is that moving back home means we can no longer just do anything we want. 

An interview published by Biola University shared thoughts from a recent grad who moved back home.  “It was definitely very hard and challenging. Specifically, I think it was hard because we had to figure out what the boundaries were. I was constantly being watched because we lived together and there were underlying expectations of ‘When are you getting a job?’ and ‘What are you doing with your life?’ While they never said them out loud, I could feel it.” This situation is amplified even more if you have to go back to sharing a room and have added familial responsibilities and chores.  

Curfews. How to properly leave the shower curtain closed. How loud you can play your music. Inviting friends over. Whose turn it is to clean the restroom. Sharing the living room TV. The list goes on.

While our parents and family mean well, having no privacy and independence leaves us feeling less than capable of leading a normal adult life. 

2. You’re Not Who You Once Were

girl looking in small mirror
shutterstock/ triocean

While many only think of college as a place where we grow in our intellectual ability, it’s also a time when we just grow as people. The truth is college changes us…drastically. 

“The biggest contributor to this dynamic is how much students naturally change while away at college. Independence exponentially grows, our ability to make decisions grows, and we really learn what we do and don’t like to do…We’ve been away from home for all of these major changes, so naturally, our parents’ image of us in their head is the old version of us, which is why they will naturally want to treat us like that ‘old version.’ The question then becomes, how do we continue to move forward in our personal development when our parents treat us like the ‘old version,’” the article by Biola University noted. 

Another article by Accredited Schools Online points out that while we are changing, the framework for living conditions back at home “is often based on the pre-college cohabitation experience when mom and dad were busy parents and the child was exactly that — a child.” 

When I attended college, I found myself in a completely different lifestyle than at home. I attended classes and studied all the time, met with like-minded individuals for club meetings, and interacted with a diverse group of students from all over the world. When I returned home and met with my hometown friends and family, an obvious disconnect took place. I felt more isolated when I realized none of them truly understood my college lifestyle. It’s okay. Not everyone will live through or understand college life. Nonetheless, that doesn’t change the fact that the world we built in college feels so disconnected from the life we have to return to at home. 

3. You Feel Like You’re Moving Backwards

chalkboard drawing of arrow moving backwards
shutterstock/ Cherries

We’ve all had that unrealistic timetable for our lives. You know, the one we adopted from rom-coms and reality shows where we finish college at 22, get married at 25, buy our first home at 27, and climb the corporate ladder eventually starting our own business and publishing our first book at 30 about our success. For those who move back home after experiencing independence in college, it can feel like you’re moving backward in your perfect timetable of what you wanted for your life.

“Any place you adapt to becomes ‘home.’ You became familiar with the routines and customs of your new culture and “back home” became more distant. When you return home, you have to relearn routines and patterns you forgot, and it can feel like stepping backward in time.” an article by The Californian Abroad states. 

Yet, as time goes on, more young adults all over the world are finding themselves back in their folk’s place than we realize. “About 45% of people ages 18 to 29 are living at home, which Bloomberg said is roughly the same level as it was in the 1940s,” an article by KTVQ said. This increase saw spikes especially during the pandemic.

Breathe in. Breathe Out. And realize that you’re not alone. In this race of life humans pressure themselves by, moving back home doesn’t make you any less capable and definitely doesn’t mean you’ve downgraded. 

Tips & Tricks

1. Make a Cohabitation Plan

notebook with the word "plan"
Unsplash/ Volodymyr Hryshchenko

If you thought the first piece of advice would be to set boundaries, you’re not wrong. Communicated boundaries play a part in any healthy relationship, and part of boundary-making is having a set plan for how you and your parents will successfully live together. 

On the website Earnet.com, a parent whose son moved back home was beginning to have issues. “My issue was him eating me out of house and home without replacing the food or even telling me,” she says. “If I have a couple bottles of wine, they are there for friends coming over. He also thought he had access to my car whenever he wanted, and he’d return the car with no gas.” 

Rather than throw caution to the wind and think everything will be okay, make a concrete set plan for the specific rules and expectations of moving back home. Will you split the grocery costs? How often can you invite friends over? What kind of chores are there and how will responsibilities be split?  

Remember, you are still living under your parents’ roof. Your roommates are no longer Ben from Econ class and Chad, your frat brother. While living with parents, remember that respect is still required from both parties. But seriously, make that cohabitation plan. You and your parents will thank you for it. 

2. Keep in Touch with Friends from College

friends laughing overlooking mountains
Unsplash/ Matheus Ferrero

Personally speaking, one of the most isolating parts of living back home with parents is feeling disconnected from the community you once had. Don’t get me wrong, our parents have just as much potential to be our best friends as anyone else. (Hello? They birthed you). Yet, there’s something special about interacting with peers from the same generation who are living the same struggles and understand your TikTok references. 

“One of the most important aspects of maintaining friendships is regular communication. This can include things like texting, emailing, or calling each other. Even if you can’t talk for very long, staying in touch can help you feel connected and maintain your bond,” an article by Nystrom & Associates said. What seems like an obvious finding, is actually so important to maintaining adult friendships. So just because you’re no longer living with and enjoying 3 am gossip sessions with college friends, maintain friendships by calling up your friends,  meeting up for lunch, or sending each other memes. The possibilities are endless. 

3. Find an Outlet

two women painting together
shutterstock/ fizkes

When all seems lost and you feel stuck, find a hobby. No, hobbies aren’t just for our 8-year-old past selves who had all the time in the world, but for you and me. Finding a hobby has the ability to get us out of the house, take up our time with something productive, and who knows, you may find a new friend or two engaging in an activity you love. 

“Compared with people who didn’t have hobbies, those who did reported better health, more happiness, fewer symptoms of depression, and higher life satisfaction…Plus, taking part in hobby groups keeps you socially connected, which helps reduce loneliness and isolation,” an article by Harvard Health claimed. 

Get out there and join a running club, art class, pottery class, or spend the weekend hiking with a hiking club in your community. In the end, you’ll realize that your city is swarming with like-minded individuals like yourself and it doesn’t take being back in college to establish community. 

4. Go to Therapy

women in therapy
shutterstock/ Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Therapy. While it seems to be a taboo for many societies and opinions, you’re in luck! After all, we’re Gen-Z. Therapy and spilling your guts to a total stranger in exchange for validation is the norm. 

“This generation is breaking down stigmas and reshaping perceptions about therapy. Compared with previous generations, they are more likely to acknowledge their mental health struggles and actively seek professional help. According to Harmony Healthcare IT’s report, two out of five Gen Zers surveyed go to regular therapy, and 53% percent have at some point received professional mental health services,” an article by Pacific Oaks College said. 

So whether you need to just vent about your week, understand how to set healthy boundaries, or are struggling with this new transition, it could help to reach out and talk to an individual who is willing to listen.

5. Change Your Perspective

beach binoculars
Unsplash/ Nadine Shaabana

As you heard literally every inspirational speaker and your mom say, all it takes is a little perspective. At the end of the day, here are the facts: you live with your parents back at home. You are alive. You are young with an endless amount of possibilities before you. The trick here is to change the way you see it. Just think about it. While everyone is out there living in a stuffed apartment in the bustling city and paying half their paycheck in rent, you get the privilege of saving money, getting home-cooked meals, and hopefully having more space to yourself than you did in college.

“Shifting perspectives can help you thwart automatic thoughts and navigate situations with a balanced outlook. It also gives you the chance to unpack your biases, develop a growth mindset, and even reinvent yourself as a more positive person,” an article by BetterUp claimed. 

While the rest of your siblings moved away and started lives in other cities and states, you actually get to be present and witness your parents’ lives as they get older. And sure, while they might be difficult at times, this is something none of your siblings will get to experience. Think, unpack, and learn to cherish the present times before they change right before your eyes. 

Written By

UCLA graduate with a background in English and Animation. When I'm not catching up on sleep, I'm trying to analyze everyone in the room, catching up on the latest YA Fantasy Novel, or watching the Office.

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