When I decided to move back to the UK I'd been living overseas for over half a decade, indulging a twentysomething's unique ability to stack up problems like dirty dishes, labeling the chaos 'living in the moment.' I equated thinking about doing something with having actually done it - never guilty enough to allocate the mess any urgency other than 'I'll definitely deal with that later.' As I pedaled closer to 30, the pile of petri dish crockery had become a health hazard; my problems had grown fuzzy new problems. Tax, credit card bills, the non-starting dream career and a troubled relationship were all left to fester.
Never one for washing up, I made the most of all available Internet precepts and pulled a major YOLO, flying back to my hometown with a horrible break-up, half a business and an acre of debt in my wake. A fresh start was all I needed. Why deal with the dirty dishes when you just start a brand new pile somewhere else, after all? But it only took a few tours around communal warehouse spaces to conclude that after rent, the deposit and the writing internship, the only way I could afford food would be to microwave the dead pigeons that mysteriously accumulated in the grimy stairwells.
Like thousands before me I moved back to the family house, babbling about the temporary stay to a bewildered Mum who patted me on the back and made me a cup of tea. Despite its modern commonality, living at home with your Mum and Dad when you're three inches from thirty isn't a swipe right scenario. No amount of tattoos will keep your date interested as you attempt to fool around under a canopy of glow in the dark stars. Inevitability, you'll feel like a failure, resentful and prone to tantrums, missing the whitewashed East London flat you never owned, but that all the same you'd imagined filling with terrariums, ergonomic coffee machines and various hopes and dreams.
I stalled accordingly, became the adult child who stayed in bed until midday, repeatedly watching Blackfish and following a strict diet of peanut butter off a spoon. My Tilikum rants were tolerated for weeks, until one day Mum gently cut me short: "you know love, when I was your age, I was already raising two kids." Embarrassed, I stormed up to my room, slamming the door like a teen who'd just been denied a pony. Dad appeared in my doorway equipped with his failsafe catchphrase, telling me tenderly to "get a fucking grip" as I squashed my face into my pillow. As usual, annoyingly, he was right.
Following in the steps of Liz Lemon I climbed down into the crevasse and made living at home into a lifestyle. I went to bed at 8pm and got up at 5am, watched reruns of The Bill with Mum and obsessively fed the birds. My parents' well-established timetable offered eccentric, therapeutic bouts of quiet: the taciturn hour that passed between dinner and Holby City, the garden worm survey after heavy rain and the delicate art of waiting for the dog to pee proffered endless time to think. I oscillated between silent stoicism and sudden bouts of weepiness. Running out of ways to avoid the chaos I'd left behind, I dropped my habitual, curative measures and let reality sink in. I paid the tax, dealt with the credit cards, worked hard and carefully handled my broken heart. I'd created the world's most boring sitcom: I was single, living at home and my only asset was my laptop, but I was more grown-up than I had been in years. Cue the canned laughter.
I revisited old lessons in place of desperately trying to find new ones. This was the house, after all, where I'd bellowed "I'm gay" at my parents from the window of a moving car before disappearing for 2 weeks. Slinking back, years of crippling fear were soothed by a couple of hugs in the kitchen and rounds of "we've known for a while." This was the house that supported my stupid decision to be writer, pushed me to move to the other side of the world and made sure I was always honest about the amount of trouble I was in. This was the house that had let me be me – a much better person than the stranger that returned 10 years later and luckily, my parents were still the only people who could stop me feeling sorry for myself. Remembering that, as I did my new, old flat mates' washing up, was enough to feel the world open up again. I was 27 going on 16, excited to take a swing at life and for once, happy to deal with the consequences.