Thank you, mom and dad.

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Well, I am officially moved in! On Sunday I collected the last of my things from my parents’ house. My former bedroom is now an empty space, save for a stripped twin bed, a desk, and a few bookshelves. I even took the pictures off the walls and put them in the closet so I can pick them up later.

I have to say, it feels very strange. A little over a year ago, I moved back home with my parents on the tail of a nasty breakup. I would easily characterize the move as running home to mom and dad… with my tail tucked in between my legs. I was under a tremendous amount of stress and experiencing a tremendous amount of pain. So much grief and loss associated with moving here… the death of a family member, leaving my closest friends and valued family behind, and the end of a four-year long relationship. I was absolutely devastated, and felt in pieces.

My parents graciously welcomed me back into their lives – despite the fact that I had moved out five years ago and didn’t know what to do. I had a loose idea of a plan – no dating, go to nursing school, work as a server somewhere. Try not to break into any more pieces. Although many people may not see that what they did as heroic – I did, and still do. I would not say that I am indebted to them, because our relationship does not work that way, but I am certainly awed by their spirit and endless love and patience.

It has been a rough year. It was a rough adjustment for all of us, me coming home, and we all felt the pain of what happened so many miles away. My dad drove all the way to Ohio to pick me up, only to turn around after a one-day break and drive me (and whatever belongings would fit in the car) back to New Hampshire. He listened to me pour out my heart and soul for twelve straight hours in the car on the way back home. We had hour-long conversations on the phone, before he came to get me, about what I could do with my new circumstances and the best way to accomplish them.

My mama, who is one of the most bad-ass women I have ever known to exist, has been an amazing friend to have this past year. She has been honest (even when it’s caused a fight) and has kept me from slipping into a child’s mentality. She has reminded me, over and over again, to dream big and then dream bigger. To chase whatever it is that gives me purpose – and to always remember where my inner strength lies. She has been a gentle drill-sergeant of sorts – protecting me from my own worst habits. She is the personification of wonderful mother.

In the past year, I have been on a “time-out” from adult life. There is no adult mentality when you live at home with your parents, rent-free, with the freedom to do whatever you choose. You are on vacation from the real world. Even if no one ever said it out loud, there was a deeply rooted comfort in knowing that my parents were the “real grownups” around – even if I am almost twenty-five. No matter what happened, they would be there. I never had to be afraid of anything, because I had wonderful grownups around.

When I met Dave, I knew – like, on the first date knew – that this was going to be something amazing. I could just tell. I had spent six months dating this person and dating that person – sometimes for a few months, sometimes for only a few weeks or just one drink. I had exposed myself to lots of different types of people and personalities, not to mention all of the legwork I did prior to moving back home. It’s safe to say that I know exactly what I want in a partner, and I am even more precise in what I don’t want. Even though he was late meeting me for dinner (I don’t remember exactly how long – more than five minutes but less than ten. I was counting.) he more than made up for it every moment after he arrived, and he continues to do so.

Anyway, as our relationship progressed I became more and more comfortable with the idea that maybe he and I would make a go of it. You know, move in together and stuff. My parents were even more supportive then – offering honest opinions and valuable advice. When I told them that I wanted to stay in school but not be a nurse, they gave the thumbs up. My dad said things like “any time spent unhappy is wasted time” and my mom said things like “I support you in whatever you do – just throw yourself into it and give it all you’ve got”. It’s like they are walking motivational posters or something.

It comes as no surprise, then, that moving in with Dave left me with mixed emotions. I am having a really hard time compartmentalizing how I feel about leaving home (again) and how I feel about sharing my life with Dave. One is met with sadness, the other joy. They are all mixed up in my brain. So, although I enjoyed sweating my way up a flight of stairs with a tub full of my stuff, it also occurred to me – with every step – that I was taking another step away from “home”. You’d think that by age twenty-four I would have cut the cord by now, but the truth is I really like my parents as people. They are great parents, but they are also great friends. It was wonderful to see them every day and get awesome hugs whenever I want. True – they are only just down the road – but I would probably be content living in the same neighborhood as them my whole life.

Since that plan probably isn’t the best one, I bravely march into the unknown. So far things have gone pretty smoothly – and Dave and I are very happy. He really is my best friend. I can tell him anything – even that I am happy to be here but also sad that I am not “home”. He understands, just as I understand that even though he is happy I am here, I have completely disrupted his routine, and that takes some getting used to. At the end of the day, Dave and I are a team. We are in each other’s corners, and we have each other’s backs. This is a crucial part of relationships – an understanding that we are here for one another, no matter what happens.

Despite the fact that I am feeling joyous and giddy about my awesome relationship, it does make me sad that my vacation from life has ended. It can be really scary out there, in the world, and I have to be my own grownup now. I have to be the person that takes care of stuff when stuff needs taken care of. I’m ready, though. My parents welcomed me into an environment that was safe and nurturing. I was given the space to heal and the tools to do so. I was given the tools to see a therapist, I always had someone to talk to, and someone was always there to give me a gentle nudge in the right direction. Even though I said that our relationship isn’t based on debt, it certainly is based on respect. I am eternally grateful for the kinds of people my parents are. They are that way by choice, and I do not take it for granted. Now that I am an adult, I know they are not responsible for me. And yet – they took me in anyway, and cared for me as if I could not care for myself. I had a car to drive, minimal overhead, and endless opportunity. There was no guilt, no strings attached, and no catch. They were, and are, loving individuals that opened their hearts to someone in need.

I guess you could dismiss all that by saying that since they are my parents, they have to do that kind of thing. But I know what the real world looks like. It’s ugly – even though it’s filled with moms and dad. They didn’t have to do anything, but they did. They didn’t just make it all better, they reminded me that I can make it all better on my own. Restored my sense of self-worth and helped me learn what it really means to take control over my own destiny. They gave and gave, even when they were running low on time, patience, and energy.

They are heroes.

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