Back Home: The Final Round

A more recent life development has been one that as a teenager I promised myself would never happen. After graduation, however, it appeared inevitable.

Here it is (deep breath):

I moved back to my parents’ home.

Perhaps it’s not glamorous, but it’s the truth. I didn’t graduate with a job lined up in my field. One week after graduation, I moved to Shenandoah National Park and worked with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks for the summer. But that ended, and I had to face the music of returning home and job-searching.

I know I’m not alone. Conversations with friends who are in my same boat prove that. It takes time to establish financially, make a living, find affordable housing. Leaving the nest might be more of a process than we first expected, and certainly desired.

Moving back home may feel like a step backwards in independence. Technically, perhaps it is, but only as much as we allow it to be.

John Eldredge (one of my favorite authors) says, “We must have life, but we cannot plan for it.” It is possible to thrive where we don’t plan to be, if we choose to find the full life our situation offers.

So here are some thoughts for how to flourish if you find yourself in a final round of living at home:

1. Stay in touch with your family
Even if you’re in the same house, it can be easy to pull out of the loop of what’s going on in parents’ and siblings’ lives, especially once you land a job. Take time to find out how your family members are doing. Spend time together—do game nights with them, have lunch dates, go to siblings’ school events.

If you have extended family members, how can you connect with them? Make an intentional effort to visit relatives and help them if they have a need.

2. Be an active family member
Every family has a never-ending list of chores and projects related to the house. Put yourself out there to pitch in and help even before your parents ask. Offer to take over painting the stairway, ask if there are groceries you can buy on your way, wash dishes, take care of pets.

3. Have patience
Butting heads with parents may be a real concern. Patience may become your best friend as you wade the momentary frustrations together. Realize that you’ve essentially established yourself as an adult, and that your living habits have shifted some. Communicate with your parents about the changes you’ve adopted, and don’t assume they know what you’re thinking.

Being patient with yourself will also spur you on in establishing as a full-fledged adult. Set realistic goals for jobs and finances. Be responsible, but avoid putting unnecessary pressure on yourself so that you’re discouraged when you fail to meet your expectations. Give yourself the needed time, and don’t rush the journey.

4. Be a part of community
How can you give to those in your neighborhood, town, or church? Volunteer with a cause. Get to know your neighbors, the elderly, and those from other countries in your hometown.

On the flip-side, let yourself be poured into. If there are people in your community who show interest in investing in you over coffee, take them up on it. Don’t shy away from building new relationships.

5. Set good habits now
This goes beyond regular exercise, healthy eating, and consistent sleep schedules. Think about your social sphere, how you’re using your time and finding space. What balance have you struck between spending time with family and friends and having personal time? Have you made a physical space where you can rest? Explore yourself outside the context of college life, and find living habits that allow you to thrive.

What are some ways you’ve adapted to becoming an adult while living in your parents’ house? What can you think of that promotes thriving in this situation?

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Leaving Narnia, a.k.a. Graduation

end of Narnia

Two months ago, I stood on the white shores at the end of Narnia, hugged beloved friends goodbye, and returned to my world. In other words, I graduated college.

By its nature, college produces some of the most potent experiences of our lives. How many times have you heard people say (usually with a far-away expression), “Those years were some of the best of my life”?

Now that I’ve stepped into alumni status, I understand why many people linger in conversation for those fleeting moments on their college years.

Tight-knit community characterized my small, liberal-arts school. My campus had a culture unto itself, with some wacky traditions that people from “the outside world” shook their heads at in bewilderment. Most everyone shared my faith, and I lived in an environment centered on knowing God. Some of my dearest friends came out of college. Through our shared experiences and wild shenanigans, our university became our kingdom, and we reigned as kings and queens in it. We came alive there. It grew into “home.”

Something about these experiences of deep belonging eclipse this world, and transport us into a world that feels more real than this one. No wonder we feel lost when these times of “home” come to an end.

It’s like when Aslan told Edmund and Lucy at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that they couldn’t come back to Narnia. They’d outgrown it. How disheartening! Who would want to go back to our world when you’ve lived in a breathtaking world of magic, wonder, and beauty?

The problem for us, like the Pevensies, is that we outgrow college (or at least, we’re meant to outgrow it). By the time graduation came, I knew I’d gained all I could from the rich soil of my school. Now it was time to transplant and grow in a new place. That process has taken courage. “Real life” in the “real world” of adulthood can feel gray-scaled compared to my thriving college community. But I didn’t graduate without gaining a few things, some of them on which I think this life bends.

God used college to draw me closer to Him, and to prepare me to know Him better after graduation. In Narnia, Aslan tells Edmund and Lucy that in their world he has another name, and they must learn to know him by that name. They’d have to learn to know him in new ways in their world. They’d have to find their identity outside of the dear place that had shaped them eternally, and find it in knowing him.

Isn’t that the whole reason they’d been lead to Narnia? To know Aslan? It’s the same for us.

In finding a new home at college, I discovered also that our sense of home will never be fully reached here in this world. Beautiful experiences – ones where we come alive – reveal another aspect of our true nature: we were destined for a world more real than ours. If you know The Chronicles of Narnia (if not – huge spoiler coming!), you’ll remember that the world of Narnia ends, only to reveal the real Narnia afterwards. In that true Narnia, the Pevensies and all their friends spend forever together and with Aslan.

I will say that my years at college were some of the best of my life, because they prepared me to live out the best in my years to come. Now I’m more alive with the hope of the real world to come, and the joy of knowing God in new ways until I get there.

What about you? How has college prepared you to live out the best in this life?