One, two, three swipes through your Instagram feed and I’m sure you’ve already spotted more covetable interiors, renovations of dreams and perfectly placed trinkets than you could shake a stick at.
The problem is, I can’t quite put my finger on when this palpable shift happened. The one where Everybody But Me kicked the gear up a few notches and adulting happened; home ownership happened.
The unspoken pressure to become a homeowner
I’m not sure if it’s only in the UK, but an invisible pressure exists where you should definitely already own your own home in your twenties. In fact, I very clearly remember coming home from living abroad and feeling as though I was the only person in my hometown at that age who didn’t get the memo. Whilst I’d been gallivanting the globe, collecting treasures and memories and not much money, my friends were now proud home owners, amongst other societal labels.
Me? I wouldn’t even have been able to tell you what a house deposit was. Even now, four years after the fact, I’m barely able to! I couldn’t shake off the desperate sinking feeling that I didn’t match up to them. Even my brother, who’s two years younger than me, was preparing to buy a place to call his own. And when I sat down and thought about it, I realised that it was something I’d always been hoping for; I just hadn’t planned for it because I had no idea I ‘needed’ to. I just thought one day, it’d happen for me.
But all of that is a story for another day.
Today I want to open up a discussion about the societal pressures of moving out and of moving in.
Hong Kong Mini Pouch Bag in Vegan Croc by Azurina (gifted; affiliate link)
On not moving in with a partner
Harvey and I will have been together for four years in June. Perhaps it’s because he’s my first white-British boyfriend, but I’ve felt plagued with questions for almost the entirety of our relationship about when we’ll move in together or why we don’t live together. Not only does it make both of us feel as though we’re not a ‘real couple’ or couldn’t possibly be serious about each other, it fills me with pressure for that elusive moment when we do.
Move in together that is.
We temporarily lived with each other for three weeks whilst my family and I waited for our new pad to be ready, and the questions kept coming. And if we’re being totally honest, these three weeks have been a drop in the water compared to, oh, that time we went on holiday together for a month after being together for four months.
I can’t help but feel as though society has spoken for us, and we’re being scrutinised under a magnifying glass simply because we haven’t moved in together – yet. However, I strongly believe that living apart has been great for our relationship. We get the time to miss each other; time to work on our own things; time to really appreciate the moments that we are together. And over the past three weeks, it’s made me excited for when we can be together all the time. We’ve been able to learn more of each other’s quirks (Harvey has an innate ability to stack dirty plates almost as high as I am tall…! There won’t be any of that in our place…!) and get a feel of what it will be like.
Why the rush to move out?
Back in my Uni days, as a thoroughly uncool eldest child, I had no idea that often in your second year you rent privately. I had no idea how it worked, and in the end, I ended up back in halls and feeling like I’d some invisible being down because I wasn’t grown-up enough to just get my act together.
Whilst eventually I did end up renting (with my best friend!) student accommodation in my third and final year, this sentiment of not being grown-up enough stayed with me. I unceremoniously moved home on a two-day hangover and catapulted straight into the murky waters of fashion interning a week later. And I suppose even if I’d wanted to – I didn’t – move out and rent somewhere, that wasn’t an option on an unpaid internship that cost me around £25 a day to even get to. Perhaps it’s that I’m incredibly close to my family, but I’ve never felt the rush to move out. If anything, I really cherish these days of maximising the time I spend with my family. I can call on them for anything I may need, lean on them in times of need.
Being British-born Chinese in the UK
Part of it is also that in Chinese culture, it’s the norm to live with your family until you marry. Before you cry ‘that’s not very feminist!’ and all of the other modern-day tropes that surround this, it’s a part of our culture I’ve been happy to abide by. In my time living with other people, I’ve come to realise how much I appreciate the comfort of being entirely myself, both parts of my identity, no questions asked. It’s certainly a luxury, I realise, to be on brilliant terms with my family; we rarely argue and my siblings are my best pals. My parents have always been more than happy to have me around, which is why, last week, I moved with them into our new family home. My new bedroom will, of course, eventually be my parents’ guest room but if this back-and-forth has taught me anything, it’s that I’m really bloody fortunate.
Do you live at home or with your partner? Or perhaps with your pals (you lucky thing!)? And have you ever felt similar pressure to move in, out, in, out, and shake it all about?