A panel discussion on a late-night TV program happened to catch my eye a few nights ago.
A 30-year-old journalist, who still lived at home, and her TV counterpart, who was much older and had left home at 18, were arguing about the merits — or lack thereof, according to the latter — of living with your parents beyond an age considered respectable. Well, at least in terms of Western standards.
Discussions about the living situations of my generation always make me feel uncomfortable and on edge, partly because I feel like I'm doing something "wrong" by living at home, and partly because like the majority of my generation, there is a realistic possibility that I will never have the good fortune of owning my own home.
This, despite the fact that in addition to me, virtually my entire circle of friends, and according to a 2012 Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Data, 36 percent — or 21 million of the country's young adults — were living in their parents' home, the highest number in at least four decades.
The Pew Research Center points to declining employment, increased college enrollment and declining marriage as some of the reasons for the rise in non-nest-leaving Millenials. But for children of immigrants who straddle two cultures, it's often a confusing and frustrating concept.
For many of us, living at home until we're 30 (and often beyond) is not a strange concept or some symbolic bearing on our future lives as full-grown, functioning adults — it's just the way things are.
It's as common as big family gatherings where there's enough food around to feed every family living on your street or knowing that you have to clear your plate when you go to your grandma's house or never show your face there again, or saying "goodbye" when you're leaving someone's house and then finding yourself and your hosts still standing in the driveway, continuing the conversation 45 minutes later.
Communal family living beyond age 18, especially when your grandma moves in, is normal. It's a time to save money, a time parents happily get to have you around for longer and a time for those continuing their education or starting up their careers to focus on the things that matter, instead of scrambling up enough funds to pay for accommodations.
But this doesn't necessarily mean it's always a good thing. This is especially true if you've had a good taste of being away from home, as has been my experience, only to find yourself back in its clutches once again — where your freedom to move around as you please is severely restricted and so much as the noise of a vacuum cleaner is enough to drive you crazy.
Sometimes, your only moments of solace and peace come after midnight when the whole house is quiet and no one is asking you if you've had enough to eat and if so, what did you eat and are you sure you're not hungry? Because you look like you're not getting enough nutrition in your system and don't forget to put that jacket on when you leave the house even though it's August and there's virtually no hint of cold air circulating outside.
Yes, living at home beyond the years that you're "supposed to" makes you feel like a child, but it also prepares you for a better life as an adult.
When you live in two worlds, you struggle between child and adult more often than you'd like. So for all the high numbers of Millenials joining in, don't feel too bad about regressing back to the nest — or having no plans to leave any time soon. It's not a reflection of your character, just one of the current dismal situations our generation is in.
Just don't forget to bring the ear plugs and make sure you eat what's put in front of you, or else.
LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Eurasianet and The Atlantic. She may be reached at email@example.com.