Leaving home. It’s a tragic phrase, charged with images of dramatic farewells and scary new beginnings. It conjures up the idea of an era ending. Of swing sets with no one on them and childhood bedrooms collecting dust. Even though it’s an irrefutable reality for all who have somewhere to call home, we still feel the desperate desire to deny it. We have to grow up and that means changing. We even used to dream of the changes that may come. Yet when that day arrives, we can’t help but ask, “Why now?”
When I was little, I played imaginary games with my brother and sister. My little sister and I would set up our Barbie doll world with a house and a family and babies, and it would inevitably be destroyed by Bionicles controlled by our big brother. I have always known, since I was a little girl in a perfect little family, that I wanted that out of life. I want the house and family. I want that perfect little picture that I created as a kid. And now, as an almost adult, I recognize that in order to get that I need to move on. But somehow I find myself pushing away from the path that I have worked all my life to get on.
I had the perfect American life with the perfect little struggles that came with it. I fought with my siblings. I rebelled against doing chores. I pretended I did not know what my parents were talking about when they called me out for doing something wrong. Sometimes, I felt like my life was so hard and so unfair. As it turns out, it only seemed hard because each new year brought new challenges. Babies cry so much because an empty stomach is quite literally the worst thing they have ever felt. Little kids cry when they don’t get their way because that’s their greatest struggle to date. Teenagers rebel and fight their parents because they are older than they have ever been, so why are they not old enough to do anything they please?
Once we get through each stage of our lives we can look back on the step before and laugh. “I thought I had problems then? I wish my life were still that easy.” Now that I’m through childhood and I’m looking at moving out of my parents’ house, I find myself well and truly terrified. I don’t laugh about my old problems. Instead I am closer to tears. Why can’t I still pretend to be a grown-up? Why does it have to be real? Why can’t I just have my parents take all of my problems away and keep me safe forever?
Of course, we can’t say any of this out loud. Out loud we are tough. Out loud we are so excited to finally get our own apartments and to empty our childhood bedrooms knowing full well that we will never refill them. I am never going to live with my parents again. I may visit and stay at the house on vacations, but it will never again be my home. I have to leave it all behind now, and I know that. But dammit, I am going to miss having my little sister be my biggest problem.