Return (home) of the graduate
Lauren Davidson navigates the highs and lows of life after university
A thud resounds as a box of books lands on the hallway floor. The front door shuts with a bang behind me and the keys jingle as they are thrown into the drawer. Three noises, one sentiment: despair. The dreaded has become reality. I have moved back home.
As I take regressive, shuffling steps down the hallway, resurrecting my long-lost life of living under my parents' roof, other once-familiar sounds crawl tepidly into my ear canals. I hear the operatic sounds of my sister singing the Harry Potter theme tune in the shower. I hear the cheer and chatter of the virtual crowd on the football game to which my brother's eyes are glued. I wonder if he's been sitting there since I left in 2007. Probably.
I don't, however, hear the sound of a sibling's batted eyelid at my return home after four years away. For them, it's not such a momentous occasion. They're still in the innocent bliss of a life that hasn't been subjected to student debt, job rejections and the family's insatiable need to marry them off.
I thought about moving out, but some complications arose. For one, I can't afford rent. Additionally, most of my university friends have moved to South London, but I like to be within a mile of kosher meat – and just think of the walk to shul each week.
So I'm in this post-university limbo. In my mind's eye I am once again in the land of childhood, where I get my meals cooked and my bed made. In my parents' eyes, I am a university graduate and therefore an adult, so I should really be able to afford my own petrol by now. But I still have to tell them where I'm going, with whom and when I'll be back.
I've also noticed that, now I'm supposed to be grown up, my parents seem less impressed by my achievements. Yes, they framed my maths challenge gold certificate from year nine, they put my degree class in the synagogue newsletter and they famously rang the JC when I was elected president of a student society. That was the old days.
Only last week, after an extensive but by no means unsuccessful struggle with the fabric conditioner, I twisted the dial and stood up proudly, surveying the results of my washing machine prowess with a satisfied grin. Turning to leave, I noticed my dad watching me curiously, one-eye raised, sporting a despairing look. At university I would have been met with a fellow student's impressed nod of laundry warfare camaraderie, but back at home – in my supposedly cushier lifestyle – I am an object of ridicule.
That's not where the difficulties end. When I ran out of clean underwear at university, the nearest Marks & Spencer was a two minute walk away. Back at home, it's at least a fifteen minute drive. That's not a journey that can be done in dirty socks.
The worst thing about moving back home is the pity I invoke. When asked where I'm living now, I (usually) respond with the truth. In return I get a sympathetic face, tight-lipped and tilted ever so slightly to the left: "Oh, your poor thing. We must have you over for a meal." It confuses me a bit; one perk I do have when living at home is a fully-stocked fridge.
But there's another perk which redeems the situation slightly: the knowledge that it's probably worse for my parents.
Lauren Davidson has recently emerged from three years at Cambridge University and is now one of London's young professionals - or trying to be. Follow her on Twitter here.
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