Leaving the nest isn’t always easy. Sometimes it has to happen twice.
I moved out of my childhood home a week before my eighteenth birthday. The furniture I took with me was lame in authentic bachelor fashion; a bed, cupboard and one or two kitchen items. Freedom. The kind of wide-open road I’d been longing for ever since my parents had started frowning on me smoking out of my bedroom window a couple of years before.
Endless sandwiches and cereal
You’re supposed to be an adult when you’re eighteen. I wasn’t. Had a job at a local nightclub as a barman and occasional doorman, but that just meant hanging out with the most insane crowd of people on the planet all night before heading home. A loaf of bread and a box of cereal in the cupboards and the parlour was stocked, and a bin bag of laundry always full, ready to get humped across the road to the laundrette.
There was a kind of charmless squalor at home, my first place without the boxes of toys I’d only recently stopped fiddling with. The bookcase was full; something I’d always find made a home more expressive of the person living within.
My Mum would phone often. Pop in when she was down from Joburg. Then she’d tut about the mess and do the dishes. I was living with my brother, but he was mostly out with his friends.
Then I found another flat to live in with a mate. We reckoned that we could get by on what little we had, so we did.
Living the dream and then waking up
The new place was only a few blocks away but I had no way of getting my furniture there. So my brother packed all of it out on the stoep of our previous flat. Predictably, it vanished.
I went to work one evening and found that the place had been shut down without notice.
The fashion school I was attending reminded me that actually attending would help me to graduate, but by then it was too late. I dropped out with no more fanfare than a swish of the unfinished garments I’d left behind.
The flat had to be completely renovated after we moved out. Apparently the owners preferred a working bath and toilet and walls without doodles on them.
In between the moves, the bad diet and the insanity of girlfriends and experimentation (hell, I was eighteen and FREE, let me try everything at least once, was my attitude) I’d been arrested a few times, drunk and stoned more than a few times and let down by my idiotic theories of what adult life meant.
Defeated, I went to stay with my parents in Joburg for a month. That wasn’t going to be a good fit, but it was a welcome change from not eating and having no home.
It had been a false start.
A rapid fall from the family nest, but a reminder to do better next time.
It’s so far away now that it seems like another world, and then I look at my son, who is too close to that same age I was when I was a starter adult. Terrifying.
Lessons learned? Well, parents, teach your kids not only to cook but to appreciate cooking. To appreciate all of the benefits you have to offer as privileges. Allow your kids to mess up, and welcome them home again if necessary. Help them to learn how to budget and to spend on what’s important.
And kids? Never leave your bed on the stoep, a foam mattress is no place to sleep if you value your spine.