This is continued from my previous post.
After living on my own for two years and basically failing at life, I moved back in with my mom when I was twenty. I’ve heard today’s younger generation being called the Boomerang Generation because many of them return to live with their parents after trying to make it on their own. As a GenXer, I guess I was ahead of my time.
After recovering from the shock and disappointment of the events that had led me to return to my mom’s, I tried to make the most of the situation. I was not intending to give up. I earned my GED (grade 12 equivalency), ranking in the 99th percentile. With that accomplished, I then managed to secure a student loan and enrolled in an Office Admin course, since 1) that was one of the few things the local community college offered, 2) I had a bit of experience in it from my government-funded work program job when I was a teenager, and 3) I reasoned that perhaps I could make a better living doing that as opposed to customer service/retail.
I also got a part-time job at a store, but once I started my course my boss was putting huge pressure on me to skip class to take on extra shifts, not to mention repeatedly asking me to, “Come out back and smoke a doobie,” (which was not my thing at all), so I quit the job to focus solely on school. I’ve never been a great multi-tasker anyway. (<— Big understatement.)
I ended up getting stellar grades in the course and earned my certificate with distinction. And then my work search started again.
To my crushing disappointment, I could not find an office job. I wanted one really badly so I could get out of my mom’s house again, and I thought my new training would help me, but it didn’t. I searched for months. I thought maybe the office I’d worked in when I was a teenager would hire me back, but they had a full complement of staff and weren’t interested. I even resorted to applying for retail and fast food jobs again, to no avail.
My mom had calmed down quite a bit by then and wasn’t yelling at me as much as she had in the past, but as time went on and I couldn’t find anything, she would sometimes make the accusation, “You never intended to get a job, did you? You just want me to support you.”
The neighbourhood we were living in was getting unpleasant, and we had a drug dealer living across the street, so my mom made the decision to rent a house several kilometres out of town in a rural area, thinking it would be safer. But she either hadn’t considered or didn’t care about the consequences for me. I had no car and there was no public transportation servicing that area. My mom’s job required her to be mobile and she wasn’t even going the same way every day, so I couldn’t count on a ride into town every day with her. I was stuck out there.
I stopped looking for work and fell into a sort of complacency that lasted for, I’m embarrassed to say, years. We had no internet back then, so I spent my time reading lots and lots of books. Sometimes my mom would yell at me to get a job and help her financially, but when I pointed out my predicament, she backed down. She said I could live there rent free as long as I cooked supper for her and washed the dishes and laundry, and I complied. When people asked her why I was living with her in my twenties (which wasn’t as common back then as it is now) she told them, “She’s my housekeeper.”
We were living in the upstairs of the house and there was a co-worker of my mom’s living in the basement who thought my lazy, isolated lifestyle was disgraceful. It didn’t help that my personal grooming was suffering too, and she noticed. The way I saw it, shampoo and makeup cost money, and I didn’t have any money, so I only used those products when I knew I would be able to go somewhere, which was usually about once a week on the weekend when my mom and/or her car were available. Also, my weight, which has always fluctuated (I have PCOS and hypothyroidism, both of which make it hard to manage weight), was on an upswing and I couldn’t afford new clothes, so I either wore ill-fitting clothes or clothes from the thrift store’s monthly $2-a-bag sale. The neighbour started giving me advice about grooming and taking pride in my appearance, which made me feel judged. She also pestered me to get a job, saying it was wrong and unhealthy to live off my mom, and when I explained my predicament, she said she knew of a factory close enough for me to walk to where she was certain I could get a job. She offered to go there with me as moral support so I could talk to the manager and I accepted. She walked me into the building and to the manager’s office, as if she didn’t believe I would follow through otherwise. I introduced myself and asked if there were any job openings. He said no. I asked if I could leave my resume, and he was reluctant to take it, but eventually he did. My neighbour and I returned home in total silence.
I felt the most bizarre combination of humiliation and vindication. Humiliation because I’d just been rejected in front of the neighbour, but vindication because she’d just seen that it was not as easy to get a job as she thought. The baby boomer generation always seems to think you can just walk into any business and say, “I’m ready and willing to work,” and they’ll fall all over themselves to hire you. Maybe that was true in their day, but it wasn’t in mine, and it is even less so today.
Anyway, because the neighbour was so disapproving of me, I started dreading encountering her. If I looked out the window and saw her car, I would avoid common areas such as the laundry room or the yard. This made me feel even more trapped and isolated.
I lived like that from age 21 to 26. During that time I couldn’t envision a circumstance that would result in me getting out of there and having a life. A deep despair set in. Those years are just a blur in my memory, with nothing of significance to distinguish one year from another. But at 26, I started going to church, as my mom didn’t work on Sundays and could give me a ride, and that got me out of the house and resulted in me making a couple of friends. By the time I was 27, the nature of my mom’s work had changed and she was able to give me a ride into town in the mornings and pick me up in the evenings. I then went back to community college again to upgrade my education.
Through people I met during that time, I was offered a temp job. It was in a neighbouring town, but someone else generously lent me a car so I could get there and back. The job lasted long enough for me to save up enough money for a computer, which became a link to the outside world. The internet had become a thing by then, and about a month later I met my husband online, although it didn’t progress to anything romantic right away. I was totally hung up on a man at church until he made it clear that he was completely and thoroughly rejecting me and quickly got engaged to someone else. Only then did things with the man who is now my husband start progressing. But with him living in England and me living in Canada, things progressed slowly.
Just before I turned 30, my parents got back together after 16 years of separation. With things easing up for my mom financially as a result, she bought a new car and gave me her old one. I was still unable to secure long-term employment, so I lived with my parents for another year until I married my husband at age 31. He freed me from the prison of my parents’ house.
I’m sorry if this sounds very anti-feminist. I didn’t need to be rescued by a man because I am a woman. But I did need to be rescued by somebody because I am a person who had failed at trying to rescue herself and had lost all confidence that it was even possible.
I wish I could end this post now and say he freed me once and for all. But he found himself out of work seven years later and we felt we had no choice but to move in with them. My husband is highly educated and has an enormous amount of potential, but I felt like I’d dragged him down to my level. We did end up getting out of there again two years later, but my husband’s work contract is about to end and we are on a path to heading back there if something miraculous doesn’t happen soon.
My life is not isolated right now. We live in a city with decent public transportation (except on weekends) and with a mall, library, movie theatre, grocery store, medical clinic, coffee shop, etc. mere steps away. I don’t have a job right now or any local friends, but I do get out and about quite a bit (except when it’s really cold, as that aggravates my asthma) and I am very well-groomed, if I may say so myself. I don’t love it here for various reasons, but it’s better than going back to my parents’ place. Especially since they are living in a rural area again.
I fear a return to hopelessness, poverty and isolation. It could so easily happen.
I admit I am shamefully bad at overcoming my obstacles.