I grew up in a close-knit family. My extended family is large, with my dad being one of seven and my mom one of four, and when my immediate family moved many miles away from them to Tennessee 19 years ago, we spent lots of time together. We were all we had in our new surroundings. Family has always been an important part of my life.
My immediate family consists of my parents, my older sister, and me, and throughout my childhood, my parents were very involved in our lives, supporting us in whatever endeavor we felt like giving a go. I feel sort of bad for them – and also laugh – when I think back on how they gave in to every instrument I asked to try (including violin, guitar, drums, piano, and flute), every sport, every school play, and how I abandoned them all.
My parents were – and still are – great parents. However, as I ventured into my early twenties, my relationship with them started to change.
Distance = independence
I moved nine hours away for college mainly because I didn’t want to end up with everyone I went to high school with, but also because I wanted some independence from my family. I didn’t want the temptation of being able to drive home on the weekends just for some comfort. I was ready to get out. I wanted to make new friends and try new things, and if I was gonna be homesick, I’d deal with it.
I still talked to my parents daily, and was good with that. Since we weren’t in the same state, there was lots to talk about – and lots that I could leave out without them knowing. Not that I ever did anything crazy or dangerous; I’m really not the rebellious type. But being that far away gave me a sense of freedom that I really was on my own. I couldn’t have my dad come pick me up if my car broke down in the middle of the road. I couldn’t ask my mom to help me get a stain out of my shirt. It forced me to learn not only how to do things by myself, but also just about myself in general.
If you have the opportunity to live in a different state than your parents, I suggest taking it. Distance gives you space to take on new experiences and find your own identity without having their immediate input.
We’re all adults here
As I got older, the authoritative relationship between my parents and I also changed. My sister is almost three years older than me, and I don’t have younger siblings, so the interactions between us and them became much more adult. Over time, my dad started swearing a little more casually than he used to, and wouldn’t get mad if I dropped the occasional “asshole.” When I would come home over breaks, I stopped asking my parents if I could go out with friends and started telling them instead. This transition was – and still is – a bit weird for me, as it can sometimes seem inconsistent. On one hand, my parents will always have a level of authority over me. I think that’s the way I was raised to respect them. But other times, I feel like, as a 26-year-old, my parents really shouldn’t have a say anymore, and they still try to. Something I’m continually working on is when it comes to parts of my life that are truly mine – my friends, career, relationships, style – is doing what I want to first, then telling them.
When I moved home after college, I still lived pretty close to my parents. I spent lots of time with them, and because of that, I felt like they wanted to know my every move. Where are you going tonight? Who are you going with? What are you doing there? What time will you be home? Sometimes, for no good reason, I just didn’t want to tell them. Whom I hung out with and what I did was my own adult business. I understood it from a safety aspect, but other times I felt like they were just being nosy. I wanted to say, “Remember when I went to college for four years and you had no idea what I was doing every night and things turned out perfectly fine? I can take care of myself.” And sometimes I would give a vague response, almost as a hint to stop asking me lots of specific details. Especially since the things you go through as a young adult (relationships, learning yourself, taking risks, new experiences) aren’t always things you want to discuss with your mom or dad.
Earlier in 2015, I decided to dye my hair for the first time in my life. (Not even my full head, mind you). I’ve always been pretty modest in my appearance, in the fact that I never did anything crazy. No tattoos, no wild piercings, no radical changes. When I decided I was definitely going through with it, I got a lot of skeptical questions from my mom. Are you sure you want to do that? What if you don’t like it? Do you know if the person you’re going to is really good? Yes, Mom, this is my hair, remember? I told her that I know people who dye their hair different colors every month and have a million tattoos and do all sorts of crazy stuff. Was it such a big deal that I wanted to make one change at 26 years old?
That’s when the light bulb went off. It was one of the first times where I really felt like, okay, whatever it is – my appearance, activities, clothing choices – this is my own life, and I’m going to change what I want to, even if it’s not what you would do. A big realization all over my hair color.
Live your own life
To be clear, I love my parents more than anything and I do value their opinions. But I’m getting to the point of life where that’s what I take it as – an opinion. I am not my mother.
Your twenties are a time when you have to make your own choices, even if they’re not right for your parents. Don’t be dumb – I’m not suggesting you go party your brains out because it’s the “right choice for you.” But maybe you find a religion that suits you better than what you were raised in, maybe you don’t share the same political views, or maybe you find a career you’re really passionate about, but it isn’t something your parents envisioned for you. Maybe you just want to wear a crop top…or dye your hair a new color. If you have something you’ve been wanting to try, but are afraid of what your parents would think, I say go for it. This is the time to experience life the way you want to.
My advice for 20-somethings (including myself) would be to live life for you, but don’t forget where you came from. Parents have been in our shoes and know what it’s like to want to feel independent. They give their opinions because they care, and, let’s be honest, they’ve been right many times. Besides, no matter what we choose for ourselves, even if it’s dying our hair every color of the rainbow, deep down they just want us to be happy. (And Mom would eventually get over it.)