There's No Place Like Home

Well, we did, we survived Thanksgiving. Next up: Christmas!

Cousins unite

Cousins unite

Just kidding - family holidays are fun! There's family time that usually involves food and booze, maybe some games. I'm almost 30 and have managed to avoid the family members I don't like and spend more times with those that I really do. It's nice! What is not nice, at least for me, is the hometown.

My generation, in general, is more likely to live with their parents, regardless of job status, than those in the Great Depression. For them, family holidays are probably a different type of hell altogether. This is for those of us who managed to eek it out on their own and get out of Anytown, USA. While a third of Millennials still live close to home, several of us have migrated to a more urban environment, trading in cars and McMansions for tiny apartments and public transits.

For me, I always think of my hometown in terms of street lights. The red, green, and yellow kind. My hometown has nine. I know this because I can count them, mentally walking through the streets of that place where I grew up, ticking them off. It used to be ten but one was converted to a blinking red light. Those don't count.

Going my usual route to work today, on the other hand, which takes about eight minutes, I pass through ten. One is just blinking yellow before seven am, however, so let's call it nine. In the small part of my city that I drive through to get to work, I go through the same number of lights that the entire town where I grew up has in all. Any length of time visiting family, the small town fatigue sets in. A small town means no shopping options, no food choices. No Starbucks! Racist grandma who sits on the couch all day, making rude comments about whatever is on the screen. My apartment is temporarily replaced by this full, messy, noisy house as my siblings and I all converge at the same time. The introvert in me dies a little. Everything is loud and busy and my cat and I get lost in the shuffle. I eat terribly, I sleep terribly. I watch too much television and am not productive at all. I bring home German and work every time I go home but have never actually accomplished anything while there.

I get claustrophobic when I'm home sometimes, but there has to be a silver lining! What are all the good things about going home? Obviously there's the holiday itself - food and games and booze and family members and fun. Aside from occasional political disagreements, which we've mostly moved on from, I really like spending time with these people.

But that's a small chunk of the holiday. What about the rest of it? Let's be more positive:

- No rush hour. This is silly, but very true. Commute is a big factor in happiness. Forbes summarizes several studies that link a long commute to decreased life satisfaction. My brother starts work at 8. If this was a more urban area, that would mean either working odd hours (I personally prefer coming in at 6:30 to avoid traffic, but it usually means I work much more than the usual eight hours) or leaving the house really early. Not here. My brother woke up at 7:40, showered, grabbed breakfast, and walked out the door 8 minutes before he had to bet at work. And even then he was a couple of minutes early. There is no need to organize your life around traffic. Every movement of mine on the weekday is usually planned by traffic - have to leave the office by 4:30. If I'm going out with friends, can't head home until after 7 or I will just sit in traffic. Etc. Not at home. A quick run to the store really is a quick run because the only possible disturbance is getting stopped by a cop or involved in an accident rather than traffic jams at every half a mile.

- Random family time. Sure, there's the planned big holiday. But the random stuff is the best. On Monday, I went out to lunch with my aunt. That led to stopping by the world's largest rocking chair. On Tuesday, I spent all afternoon with my cousin, drinking wine while she cooked, and sharing gossip and info on each other's television shows - I told her about Master Of None, she caught me up on Supernatural and The Walking Dead. Just because I don't watch them doesn't mean I don't care what happens to Dean and Maggie. On Wednesday, I made last minute lunch plans with my grandparents, which led to baby-sitting my cousin's 3 year old daughter. She mopped the floor while I played the Frozen soundtrack a dozen times. Then Friday, I had a random lunch with an aunt and cousin, saying good-bye one last time to my goddaughter before I left. That's the best. Those random moments.

- The usual at home stuff - No laundry. No dishes. No cooking. No grocery shopping.

- Long walks. Maybe it's just that I am less time-conscious when I'm at my parents' house and there aren't any external deadlines happening, but I go on endless walks while I'm there. At my apartment, runs are planned and quick. In the evening, it's getting in the exact number of miles before heading back. In the morning, it's going until time to hop in the shower so I can make it in to work by 6:30. But at home, I just ramble. There isn't any planned pattern. My parent's nearest neighbors are literally miles away, so I usually have the road to myself.

For me, being in my hometown and at my parents' house is a different world than the one I usually inhabit. But it's got its benefits.