The Ultimate Underachievement: Going Back “Home”


Life in the city is expensive. And it only gets more expensive every year. Things never, ever, become cheaper.

With an upcoming wedding and hoping for a trip to Europe for our honeymoon, my fiance and I need to find a way to save money. The ever increasing rents here in Chicago are not helping us. It’s clear: poor people are not welcome here in the city. We have aldermen trying to shut down independently operated locations of low income housing and telling the Salvation Army not to feed hungry people. It’s like something right out of a Dickens novel.

And everyone only gets older. I get older. And the older I get, the more I can see what should be important to me. Like my friends and family.

I had called my mother to test the waters. I wanted to see how she would feel about my fiance and myself in her house, eating from her fridge, pooping in her toilet, sitting on her couch and watching TV, and of course splitting the bills. She was happy. She liked the idea. I knew she would; before her and my sister moved into the four bedroom house she had brought up the idea of us all living together like one big happy family. I had told her that if I did ever move back “home” I would live in my own place. This was kind of awhile ago, so I just wanted to make sure that we were still welcome.

I should mention that “home” is a smaller town, which a much lower cost of living. Not nearly as cool or cultured as Chicago is, but an easier life for sure.

The next day my sister and mom both called and texted me like 10 times. My sister never calls me. They were so incredibly excited.

Now keep in mind I had only called my mom and talked with her about what would happen if I moved home. I gave no affirmation. However, upon seeing just how excited and happy they both were at the simple idea of my being in their presence on a more regular basis I felt as though the decision had been made for me. There was no way I was going to break their hearts, especially after 10 years of many potential visits turning into me calling and giving them some excuse so I could stay in bed and sleep off a hang over. (Bad, bad daughter!) In these moments, the absence of my grandfather weights heavy on my mind. Being that I was without a father and my mother was still a child herself when I was born, he became essentially my only parent. We spent so many days together, we were like best friends.

When I left home, I don’t think anyone was more heartbroken and worried than my grandfather. He accepted the fact that I needed to be on my own, but he always made sure I knew that he wished I weren’t so far away. When I would actually show up for a visit, he would get really upset when it came time for me to leave, and would always ask me why I was leaving so soon. My mom started to withhold the fact that I was coming home for a visit until I was actually there; he got so excited at word of my coming and would become so incredibly sad when I wouldn’t actually show up. She tells me that it was painful to watch.

In the present time, after his passing, these memories haunt me. I wish I could go back to my 20 something self and say “snap out of it!” It pains me that I withheld myself from them. Things became very ugly at home after I went away. My mom was at the time still subscribed to the theory that being harsh on you loved ones will somehow turn them into better people. She began to drink. There were years of loneliness and torment for everyone who lived in that house. Therapists told me that it was perfectly normal to want to cut ties and stay away, if only for my own mental health.

I could never stay completely away. My visits became very infrequent, I think at one point I had only visited once the entire year. Mom would call me and beg me to come home, to help her. Here in the city, I felt like my life had just began. She was terribly oppressive in my childhood. I wasn’t about to let her take what freedom I had found away from me. She had always needed my help, my whole life it seemed, and I was tired of being there for her to fall back on and use.

All of this was very painful. In reality I needed her as much as she needed me. However I am glad I stayed away. She has grown and become the strong, kind person that was always deep inside her, I think stuffed away in the panic of having three kids, a low wage job, and no baby’s daddy present to help shoulder the load. I don’t think it would have been better if I was there for the process. The relationship needed space.

But I do wish I came to visit more, especially with my grandfather. I don’t want to let any more moments escape from me. I want to be with the people closest to my heart.

So in this way, I don’t feel bad or defeated about moving home to live with my mom. It’s not like we are going to camp out in the living room, we will have two rooms and a bathroom to ourselves. We are paying bills. We will be saving money. Those two concepts have not been well embraced in the first ten years of my adult life. I’m going to run out of time if I don’t hunker down and get responsible soon!


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