All my life, I looked at the young adults who moved home after university with fear. That could not be me. Choruses of “suburbs, chores, boredom, oh my!” rang through my head as yet another one of my friends’ older siblings moved back into their childhood bedrooms. A feisty, independent, and high-achieving globetrotter of a high school and university student, I thought I would never be one of those graduates. I imagined I would embark on a life of fabulous independence with a puppy, a pink-walled apartment, and a group of new and fabulous queer friends in the city of my dreams. Cut to nine months out of university, and for the first time ever, I needed to seriously consider moving home with my mom in the suburbs. The realization freaked. me. the. fuck. out.
Living with mom and pops is no longer a taboo. As of 2016, Statistics Canada has reported that over one-third of young adults aged 20 to 34 were living with at least one of their parents — 34.7% to be exact. I know plenty of people who do it, but I thought my gumption would keep me out of, what I considered, “that trap.” For weeks, even the thought of considering a move into my mom’s house in the suburbs sent me reeling. It challenged all my identities. How was I going to survive as a single young person of color out in the whitewashed family-focused town? Who am I if not living far away from my family? How am I going to date and build community as a gay woman of color out there in the boonies? Who am I without random art outings, and cultural events to push my consciousness? What kind of environmentalist am I if I don’t rely on walking and public transit, like I can in the city? I went to amazing schools, got the internships, did everything I was supposed to do. I was supposed to be this flaming success right out of the get-go. I went to Wellesley! Does this make a failure?
But as my contract as a residential don at a boarding school in the city approaches its end on the last day of the school year, and I have no intentions of renewing, I’ve had to do more than ponder those scary questions. I had to sit down with them and address them. Through that process, I was able to break through my trepidation about the suburbs. In fact, I actually I started to be grateful for such an awesome option. After years of relative turmoil, my relationship with my mom has morphed into something healthy, respectful, loving, and edging on beautiful. I’m lucky she would welcome me back with open arms, with a promise to pay for my own gas and groceries. What got me to this point was sitting down and being honest with myself about where I really want to be in the next year, two, and three years. I was honest about my goals — financial, career, and personal. But also, almost more importantly, I was honest about my values and what I need to be healthy and happy. With those things in mind, it the suburbs aren’t looking so bad.
Here’s how I got there:
1. Sitting down and actually calculating how much I would save. Taking “oh you’re going to save so much money” adage I heard from everyone and actually seeing a number was what it took from my heart to finally listen to my brain. The average studio or one-bedroom apartment in Toronto would go for $1,500 with all my health demands. Adding that number to how much I would be able to save normally took me towards actually being able to take vacations, and or saving up for a down payment kind of money. And I liked that a lot.
2. Fitting those additional savings into real-life goals. Mine is a downpayment on a condo, in a neighborhood I like, close to work, somewhere I see myself staying for years. I’ve lived in dorms and/or abroad for the last seven years, always in just one-year kinds of situations. I’ve had my fill of roommates. My craving for stability is strong. The time and savings to find a place I love in the city will mean the world to me.
3. Taking financial security seriously. If I wanted to get an apartment right as my current boarding school contract ended, I would need to use almost all my savings for the first and last month’s rent and other closing costs. With currently no job lined up for after this contract, that would not be wise on any front. Financial security means having my own back. My emergency fund is currently small but precious to me. I’m not willing to give that up for the independence of living alone in the city, stressed about money.
4. Looking past my city snobbery and seriously considering ways living in the suburbs could not suck for me. When I realized how long my list actually was, I started getting really excited. The key was that the benefits were tailored to my own goals and values, not just general. Here’s a list of them:I can garden to my heart’s content, I can deepen my relationship with my mom, I can live with people who love me, I get to hang out with my mom’s dog (all the benefits of pet ownership without the cost), I get to live 15 minutes away from my Canadian best friend, no noisy intersections, less pollution, no crazy stressed-out commuters on every street corner, I can walk around at 3 AM alone and not be scared for my safety
5. Access to a car. I love public transit. But sometimes, at least in Toronto, it is slow inconvenient and holds me back. My mom has an extra car at home for when my siblings and I are home for the summers. Now I can hop in the car and explore a new provincial park or go camping or head to a far-off festival with freedom!
6. Proximity to nature. I love nature. Yes, that environmental studies major activist love, but also that I-need-this-in-my-everyday-life-for-wellness kind of love. In the suburbs, I’m surrounded by trails and am a 15-minute drive to a provincial park. I can itch my hiking, wilderness gear-ogling self who has been in hiding since my move to the city.
7. Boxing, boxing I can finally do boxing! There’s a studio only a five-minute drive from my mom’s house. Heck, I could even bike once I’m fit enough. Sure beats a 30+ minute subway ride in sweaty clothes during rush hour.
8. Committing to making my life walkable. One of my most favorite parts of living in the city is the walkability. I can walk to the hospital, the library, the grocery store — basically anywhere I need to be. I’m lucky that the same resources are within walking or biking distance to my mom’s house, too. It’s just more tempting to use the car. Committing to walking to the same things I did in the city will keep that wellness aspect of a walkable city alive for me. Plus, it helps me feel like the environmental do-gooder my major had me seeking to be.
9. Tough love. Admitting to myself that I’ve been in the city for nine months and haven’t found my holy grail of queer, woke, badass humans that I dreamed I would fall into in the city. It’s okay not to have that right now. Your current systems aren’t working, that’s okay. Your plans for community building from the suburbs are working well. New game plan:
- Roller Derby team. I miss the teams of my childhood! Roller derby is badass, queer af, and notoriously super close-knit. My town is between two cities with teams, so I can go either way. If I go the Toronto way, I can make some Toronto friends so when I move back, I already have a fab community.
- Boxing. I’ve been wanting to get into boxing for years now. Toughness, exercise with practical applications, and the added confidence of knowing you could beat someone up, plus the added benefit of community bonding if you go to the same classes week after week after week. The boxing studio in the city I wanted to go to is out of the way and would take me awhile to get to by public transit. Borrowing my mom’s car in the suburbs, I could get to a studio in five minutes!
- Throw out the picture-perfect community you dreamed up in college. More is not better, and life isn’t a TV show. Your community is already beautiful. Continue being your kind badass self and enjoying life, and with time, your community will grow.
10. Using all these rational and personal reasons for moving back home to kick out that negative self-talk around the “thing you thought you would never do”. Life changes. Goals change. “This is where you are now. And heck, you should be darn proud. Putting your values and your life goals first before the fear of judgement is badass. You are going to be great,” I say to myself as I fall asleep dreaming of a strong emergency fund, badass biceps from boxing, a tan from being outside, and growing savings towards a dream home. How joyous this home life will be!
Bonus: Realizing the city is not that far away, and will be waiting for me when I’m ready. I can meet up with city friends after work if I get a job I commute into the city for. I can attend events in evenings to miss rush hour, or take the train in on weekends, too. My city life won’t be over. Heck, I will actually be setting myself up for a more stable, happy, and secure city life in the future.
Courtney is a self-professed newbie-at-adulting who is somehow finding the transition from university fun, in the way that it’s tearing her heart open and causing her to question everything about herself and the world. She is currently living in the Toronto area and spends her free time on personal finance blogs, daydreaming, and reading as many books as the library will let her check out on a weekly basis. Follow her on Instagram and visit her website.
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