The Odyssey Years

There was a hilarious article in the NYTimes a couple days ago about how kids our age (22-30) are getting stuck in what the columnist called the “Odyssey Years”: this yawning gap of time between the end, or rather, dribbling off, of college, and the slow beginnings of true adulthood. (See article:The Odyssey Years) You know — kids take five or six years to finish university, then they move home, maybe get a job at a bookstore, spend a year at Americorps or at a non-profit doing idealistic things but living in poverty, return home for another year, and all the while parents wring their hands wondering if the empty nest they’ve dreamed of for so long will ever really be empty. This is hardly how the family dynamic works at my parents’ home, but I keep trying to pretend that I am not part of this demographic. What? Me? Caught in this same sort of lost-ness that seems to have snared my whole generation? Hah! I have my university degree! I have a job! I even have a 401k!

And then I have a conversation with my mother like the one I had last night, and I have to concede that, no, I too am just as commitment-phobic as my peers when it comes to choosing a career and settling down. The whole idea gives me the heebie-jeebies. The current issue is simply finding a place to live. It’s pretty simple: hunt for an apartment (God bless craigslist), sign a lease, set up for a year, and ta da! People do it ALL THE TIME. Not rocket science. And yet. And yet. Once I open that door, suddenly the nervous and anxious part of my brain fires up and starts asking questions:

  1. How much can you afford?
  2. You want to live alone, but a studio in Seattle will run at least $750 a month, and that’s really too much; so you should probably settle and look for a place to live with other people.
  3. If you live with other people, you’ll have to live with strangers, most likely, and then you’ll have to worry about security, and there will still be space constraints. The goal here is to unpack your books, which haven’t been unpacked since you moved home from Toronto. Maybe you should find a closet to stash your trailwork gear, too.
  4. Which brings up the issue of furniture. You only own a bed and a dresser. You don’t even have bookshelves! If you get a place on your own, don’t forget to factor in the cost of buying furniture!
  5. What are you going to to with all that furniture if you decide to move to Europe??
  6. Why would you want to spend so much money to live alone when you could take the extra $200 and put it towards a travel fund? The value of the US$ is dropping, and you probably want to leave the continent anyway. And then you won’t have to worry about storing furniture, because you won’t have bought any.
  7. And consider your mother’s suggestion: why spend money on someone else’s mortgage? Why don’t you consider buying a tiny apartment if you get a permanent job in the spring??

This last one stopped me dead in my tracks last night. As you can see, I have been going around and around in circles: I weigh saving money by sharing rent and remaining unsettled, and coughing up to spend money on a place that is private and comfortable and feels like home. Then my mother suggested I buy an apartment. Dear god.

I have been on the move emotionally and physically for years now – prepared to pick up and go at practically a moment’s notice. When I moved home two years ago, I was sure it would only be for the short term; it stretched into a year, but the relationship I was in (with a big R) was going places – I would move overseas to be with him (cue Vaughan William’s Fantasia on a Theme, and a long shot of me through a greased lens in some picturesque park in London). Right. Anyway. Seattle just didn’t feel like home, and I thought there was a larger world out there for me. I still think there is. But, reality (and adulthood, I’m realizing) means getting a job here, now, and seeding happiness in the ground at your feet. My wanderlust has remained strong, and this restlessness has manifested itself most strongly in my terrible (though at times romantic) living situations.

And so, it is here where I find myself having to reluctantly group myself with the rest of my shiftless peers: I spent a year living with a roommate who was lovely enough, but the house was aesthetically stultifying. After that I crashed at my mum’s house for a little while, and then moved to a charming “tree house” summer sublet near the university while the permanent tenant enjoyed her summer in Nepal. The tree house was amazing, but got almost no natural light, due to the density of the trees. There were also insects. Then, because I’d put money into my car instead of into a deposit, I was poor, and am now living with my father. Shiftless indeed! I like to think that true adulthood is something that one arrives at in fits and starts, rather than all at once, as with some grandiose birthing. How dull would that be?

So, I find myself on the Odyssey for a place to live, questing not just for a roof over my head, but for an end to this twenty-something shiftlessness. The question of where to live opens the much larger Pandora’s box of who I want to be, where I want to live, what kind of career I want, whether I should stay in Seattle or seek my fortune elsewhere. But in the practical, pragmatic part of my brain, I have to concede that, under the right circumstances, maybe, just maybe, I am not so shiftless that I wouldn’t consider a mortgage. On a tiny place just big enough for me, which I would only live in for five years or so. But not without lots of research. If I get a permanent job in the spring (no more of this contract work!), then it will be something to consider. For the moment though, I need to swallow my pride, stop saying NO to apartments, and start saying YES. Adulthood is arrived at in fits and starts, right? The sooner I find a place to live, the sooner I can unpack my books.

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~ by ecp on October 10, 2007.

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