Monday, February 26, 2018

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Leaving home and striking out on your own isn't easy.   It helps to have a plan.

A reader asks if he should leave home, as his parents are demanding and bossy.   This is the kind of question I am loathe to answer on a number of grounds - and why I don't like to give "advice".    For all I know, his Dad will show up on my doorstep with a shotgun and say, "what kind of crazy ideas have you been giving my boy!"

Or the advice goes horribly wrong and I am blamed for the less-than-optimal outcome.   No matter what I say, I am screwed.   Advice is easy to give, but hard to take.  And often, the person seeking advice couches the question in terms that produce a predicted outcome.   In the law business, I saw this all the time - clients coming to me wanting validation for decisions they already made, and thus leaving out critical pieces of data, so I would come to the conclusion they wanted me to reach.  I had to turn away those clients.

But the question - in general - is a valid one.  We all leave home, eventually - well, at least most of us do.   But how you do this is important, as you don't want to "bounce back" to the home and end up being castigated by your parents as a "failure" and browbeat and whatnot.   It pays to have a plan in place - a rational plan - as well as some resources to start out with.

We see a lot of people in the lower classes moving to find work.  They don't have a specific job lined up, they just pack everything into a U-Haul and move, like the Joad family - to somewhere they heard there "were lots of jobs."   A better idea is to line up a specific job ahead of time before moving out.  And if you are moving away (two separate things, really) you should visit the city you are moving to and scope it out first.

As I noted in another posting, the Wall Street Journal (an even more right-wing publication in the post-Murdoch era) took the opportunity to bash San Francisco and laud "family values" of good old Indiana, by using a young woman's ill-advised journey in life.   After high school, she told off family and friends in her home town and set out for the coast, without having any specific plan in place, other than to leave town.   As you can imagine, it did not work out well.  While the bay area has lots of high-paying jobs for college graduates and those with skills, it doesn't pay well to high-school grads and the cost of living was staggering.

Like I said, it helps to have a plan in place.  Just moving somewhere and hoping it all works out isn't really a plan.  And unless you are without any other alternatives at all, it makes no sense.

Many of us "leave home" by going off to college.  It really isn't leaving home, as you come back for holidays and maybe summer vacation - and all your crap is still in your old bedroom.   But that is one function of college - to live independently, albeit in baby-steps, first in a structured dorm environment, then maybe the first apartment, and then hopefully off to live independently.

The problem for many college students today is that jobs aren't there at the end of the pipeline.  So they move back home with Mom and Dad, which is a good temporary solution - temporary.  Again, have a plan in place to move on, eventually.  The worst thing is to sit it Mom and Dad's basement playing video games all day long, smoking pot, and collecting guns.  Too much of that shit going on these days.

My own story is pretty typical.  I "left home" to go to college - General Motors Institute.  It was a five-year program that included working half-time at a GM plant.  It was a bit like joining the military, in that they gave me a lot of responsibility and then let me sink or swim.  Oddly enough, two areas I excelled at, in the ball-bearing plant (besides the metallurgical laboratory) was in the suggestion department (a forerunner of my Patent career) and in plant engineering, writing contracts for construction projects (foreshadowing my law career as well).

Speaking of the military, many friends of mine "left home" by joining the Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or Navy.  The smarter ones negotiated skills training in advance and banked as much of their pay as possible (as opposed to buying a clapped-out Camaro on time with the first paycheck and then drinking up the rest - as so many in the military end up doing).  One friend joined the Navy to escape the ghetto of South Philadelphia.  Another joined because his Father worked him like a mule on the family farm.  Both did very well in life.  If you don't get shot or blown up, it can be a good option for many.  Beats smoking pot in the basement.

But as I have noted before, I fucked it all up by smoking pot and flunked out.   Pretty stupid in retrospect, but I was able to recover from this error - and maybe it was for the best.  The plant closed and I probably wouldn't have liked working at GM or as an Engineer - a tough, low-paying job these days, in some areas.

So I moved back home - for a week.   The decision to leave was pretty easy.  My parents hated me and hated each other.  None of us wanted to live with the other.  I found a job and a cheap apartment within a week.  I "left home" but of course, was no more than 20 miles away.  And my parents will still supportive - emotionally (if you can believe that) and financially sometimes - helping pay tuition before Carrier took up the slack.   Within a few years, I had that job at Carrier, and bought a small house not far from the plant - and was taking at least one course a semester in night school at Syracuse University.

I left that situation to move to Washington and the Patent Office.  That was a bit of a leap of faith, but at least there was a job guaranteed at the end of the pipeline.   Not smoking pot made the transition a lot easier - marijuana tends to induce stasis in people and locks them into their current situation (such as Mom's basement) which is why I am not "against" marijuana, but don't suggest smoking it.  This marijuana oil, on the other hand, is a great analgesic - that I am not allergic to - but sadly has no THC content in it (although it smells like bong water).

Leaving is hard.  I get that.  It is hard to make decisions.  And it helps to get advice.  But it is a decision each of us has to make on their own.  And in some cases, people do desperate things to escape desperate situations.   I've met women who "ran off" with the first man they could find, to marry or live with, in order to escape abusive households.  Sadly, most went from one form of abuse to another and ended up divorced in short order.  It illustrates how hard it is to escape, sometimes, from parental entanglements.

In some fundamentalist religious communities, this is particularly a problem.  In one celebrated case, a young women left the "compound" of her parent's home and moved to the big city to find her fortune.  Problem was, she was born at home and home schooled, and her parents never registered her birth (no doubt they had an end-times shelter stocked with can goods!).   Without a birth certificate, she cannot get a job, a license, rent an apartment, collect social security or even food stamps.  She is an alien in her own country.

Sort of puts a lot of parent problems in perspective, no?

Have a plan, save up some money, find a job, find a place to live, in advance.  Don't just leave without some sort of plan, or you'll end up coming back.  And I can tell you from experience, that returning home after leaving was a very, very unpleasant little hell to go through!

Many young women in the past would run off with a man or get married, just to get out of their family home.  Often this did not work out well.