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Surviving Isolation When You Still Live With Your Parents

You tasted freedom once, but was it as good as it seemed?


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Calum Johnson

3 years ago | 3 min read

Last summer, I graduated from uni and came home to live with my parents and two siblings. It was a logical decision at the time, as I had no job, very little money, and I was going to study as a postgrad at a university much closer to home.

Moving home meant I would have to sacrifice some of the freedoms I had enjoyed living on my own up to that point, and work to my family’s routine.

It would involve taking on some of the chores, chauffering my siblings to events and appointments, and sitting down to dinner at the same time every night with near-metronomic precision.

In exchange, I got free meals and clean bedding, and that arrangement suited me extremely well.

My parents had made it clear to me from the outset that my subscription to the family was very much an opt-in service, and if I wanted to see friends or do my own thing, that was my prerogative.

However, that was to change four weeks ago, when COVID-19 closed my university and forced more than half the world into lockdown. And with the decision to isolate at home, I lost the part of my life that had formerly offered an escape from the sometimes-stifling atmosphere of family life.

Young adults can be quite selfish. They need to be, sometimes.

And after four years of living on my own or with friends, I certainly am. I’ve got used to eating what I want and when I like, I do my washing and nobody else’s, I tidy my room only when it’s uninhabitable, and I come and go on my own schedule.

Then lockdown happened, and the soundtrack of my life has been an endless cacophony of questions and instructions that have disrupted my previously self-serving way of life.

“Could you make me breakfast?”

“Can you get me a glass of juice?”

“Can I come in here to watch TV?”

“When will dinner be?”

These are the kinds of questions that I chose to leave behind when I went to university but now find myself immersed in.

Partial participation is not an option when you spend 24 hours a day with four other people, and I’m now becoming the obedient, well-trained house-son that I never thought I could be — to the detriment of my independence.

But while living at home during lockdown hasn’t been an easy experience, it has been a valuable one. I have learned that the only real difference to my life before COVID-19 is intensity.

My life now is full of the things I value the most — things like eating dinner with my family and playing board games with my siblings.

The only problem is that it is too full of those things. It’s the living proof that you can have too much of a good thing.

I am becoming over-saturated with family involvement.

That said, several weeks into this new way of life, I am beginning to realize that I might reflect on this time with a modicum of fondness. Of course, I miss so many aspects of my ‘normal’ life, but I have replaced those things with more time spent with my family.

That shouldn’t be taken for granted, either. In a few months, I may well have moved out, and participating in family time will take a concerted effort. It isn’t obvious to me that I will prefer that life to the one I have now.

I have a new-found admiration for the rest of my family. They have to cope with this unusual situation too, and they are putting up with my constant presence, my grumpiness, and my insatiable appetite.

The only difference is that this isn’t some outlying blip in an otherwise carefree existence — my parents and my siblings don’t have the opportunity to opt-out of family life as I once did.

Indeed, this situation has offered me a chance to reflect on just how good my life was before the lockdown. It was free from the constant obligations of being a parent and away from the scrutiny and mollycoddling of childhood.

My life under quarantine isn’t all sunshine and daisies, but it is worth remembering that millions of people around the world — perhaps the rest of my family included — have it far, far worse than me.

And who knows? I might miss this when it’s over.

Originally published on medium.

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Calum Johnson

I am a UK-based writer and journalist, interested in topics as wide-ranging as history and finance, politics and sport.


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