Living At Home After College Longer Than I Expected Taught Me A Lot About Self-Care

Growing up, I always had a plan or at least a general idea of how my life would go. As a freshmen in high school, I planned on going to college four years down the road. I assumed I would earn a degree in something related to art, writing, and media, and likely spend a few weeks studying and touring the sights in another country like my older brother did. Eventually, I’d toss my graduation cap, grab my diploma, and sign a lease on my own apartment. I had it all figured out, like you’re "supposed to," right? So you can imagine that when I ended up living at home after college for longer than I originally expected, I was a little thrown off guard.

To be honest, I was more than thrown off guard — I was straight-up scared. I really didn’t know what the future held for me after college, and it seemed like the universe didn’t have a single clue, either. As the months went by and my job applications kept getting rejected, I began to wonder if everything I planned on doing was simply a pipe dream. I wondered if I would ever be able to afford rent, and where I was going to fit in in the "real world."

I was a living and breathing anxiety attack, trying to convince herself that life isn’t the continuous thunderstorm that it can be made out to be. (Spoiler alert: It’s actually one big rainbow in disguise. But we’ll get to that later.) It might sound a little dramatic, I know. But this time period of my life ended up being incredibly crucial and life-altering. It taught me to go with the flow, and to trust myself more. It taught me that nothing is guaranteed, and to always be empathetic and kind.

Most importantly, this chapter of my post-grad life taught me everything I needed to know about self-care, growth, and blooming into the best version of myself. It’s someone I’ve come to understand, accept, and truly love. Let me tell you more about her and how she came to be, OK?

I’m not going to tell you my entire life story, because that would take, well, a while. But I will give you some basics — the 411 on me, if you will. I’m a content creator from the East Coast. I took ballet classes for 14 years, and love trying out new recipes, traveling the world, and watching reruns of New Girl. I went to college for journalism, and for about a year and a half after receiving my degree, I moved back in with my mom and dad.

At first, I was pretty excited to sleep in my own bed, chill with my cat on the couch on a Saturday afternoon, and eat homecooked meals for dinner every single night. I loved having in-depth conversations about the world with my dad, and wine and coloring nights with my mom. I appreciated the little moments, laughs, and coming home from my exhausting retail job to leftovers in the fridge — and still do. Everything was well — until I desperately wanted to be out on my own.

Truth is, I was more than ready. Other than paying my rent and other bills — which is obviously important — I felt so prepared to leap into this next chapter of my life and to make a grand 20-something move. I had been accepted to my dream job (Can you take a wild guess what that was?), was beginning to get more into my career, and was surrounded by friends I loved. The only thing missing was a key to a cute studio, with succulents on the windowsills and cozy blankets draped over the couch.

What I didn’t know, though, was that another thing was also missing — me! *Cue Taylor Swift’s latest single with Brendon Urie, "ME!"* I was missing huge lessons about self-care that only living at home could have ever taught me. The first of these lessons was creating boundaries.

When you move back home after college, you’re older and have more experience with life than you did back in high school. You’ve lived on your own, and may have even spend a semester abroad. But your parents may not always treat you that way. They may still see you as their kid, and understandably so. Your mom may want to do your laundry for you, cook your meals, and wash your dishes afterwards. She means well, but it may make you feel like you’re not a true "adult."

In addition, you may feel terrible for asking her to leave your things alone and to stop helping you out so much. I’ve learned that it’s important to establish that you are an adult, though, and are capable of handling anything that life throws at you — including the dirty dishes that are covered in sticky mac and cheese. I found that it’s necessary to say, "I appreciate your help, but I’d prefer to do this," and lay out some ground rules.

Especially when it comes to your self-confidence and self-esteem, creating those boundaries keeps you from falling into negative energy. They serve as constant reminders that you are in the real world and crushing it, one step at a time. You’re also in control of your life, even when you’re living at home and working toward your big, beautiful dreams.

The second self-care lesson that living at home taught me was acceptance. I had to learn how to accept my complete self, and where I was at that moment in time. It took retraining my brain, thinking happy thoughts, and truly believing that everything happens for a reason. But it’s a lesson that has proven to be so beneficial as I continue to navigate my life.

Living at home after college for as long as I did was, as you know, not my original plan. And every day, I felt like I was watching other people take huge steps into their future. Some were moving into their own apartments and others weren’t, but were making enough money that they definitely could. I felt totally stuck and continuously compared myself to others who were seemingly more successful in being their best selves.

I learned quickly, though, that making those comparisons was, well, totally wrong. It’s easy to do that because of social media, group chats, and the lingering thoughts you’ve had since high school that tell you, "You should have a plan! You should be doing so much by now!" But making comparisons isn’t productive, and doesn’t allow you to live in the present where things are happening if and when they should.

I think that’s the magical secret to life everybody’s looking for: Life happens when it should, and you’re on your own unique path that shouldn’t be compared to anyone else’s. You move out on your own when you’re supposed to. Your soulmate might message you on Instagram when you least expect it, but when the universe was actually planning for it to happen. And some of the things that you stress about for so long, aren’t all that major in the grand scheme of things.

I’m immensely grateful that I have two loving parents, and that I knew I was going to go to college. I know that life isn’t always so simple and straightforward that way. I’m also grateful for the moments I didn’t plan, though, and appreciate the lessons about self-care they taught me. I wouldn’t have bloomed into who I’m meant to be without them, and now can courageously say, "What’s next?" — or better yet, "I’m happy here and now."

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