My family home is a 15-minute walk from Grafton Street, which is closer to Trinity than most of its student accommodation. Attending university in the midst of a housing crisis that has only gotten worse since I started my studies, living at home during college should feel like a no-brainer.
Mostly, when I hear my friends complain about opportunistic landlords and extortionate rents, it does. But sometimes, it’s hard not to feel like I’m suffering from arrested development or missing out on an essential part of the college experience.
For one thing, living with my family means that the respect for peace and privacy paramount to civil cohabiting is gone. I have long since known to keep my money, my journal and my sweet stash under my floorboards. And as I write this, my dad is testing out his new bluetooth speaker by playing “Like a Prayer” by Madonna at maximum volume.
Although my house is not without conflict, when it comes to curfews, my parents are not particularly strict. I can go out when I want and come home when I want, as long as I don’t wake them up when I return.
As it happens, they have little to say about my college attendance either because I perfected the art of truancy in primary school. That being said, arguments about money are endless, and I never seem able to do the laundry to my mother’s satisfaction.
When I don’t wash my clothes, she lectures me about how I am making her do it. When I do wash them, she lectures me about wasting electricity. I envy my friends who live alone and don’t have nightmares about leaving the immersion on.
The obvious benefit to living at home is the money I get to save, although I don’t seem to have much to show for it except an excess of clothes. As I incur more debt and my savings account goes further into overdraft, I wonder how my friends manage to scrape together almost €1,000 each month to pay their rent.
My favourite thing about being at home is living in the city that I grew up in and rediscovering it as an adult. The parks I used to play in as a child become the settings for first dates, and I get to spend money in the places at which I used to window shop.
A few months ago, I arranged to meet my neighbour for coffee. I had lost my phone, and instead of texting her like I usually would, I knocked on her door like I used to do when we were ten years old. It was nice to know that, as much as things have changed since then, that one small thing hadn’t.
I will say, though, that I could do without the shopkeeper in my local newsagent refusing to serve me alcohol because he thinks I’m still thirteen (being five-foot-nothing doesn’t help my case).
Living at home also means that staying in touch with my school friends is effortless. My school friends are my best friends, and I love watching them evolve, never missing their birthdays or breakups or graduations.
But I do feel the weight of the South Dublin bubble, and often I wish I lived in a new city, one where I don’t have to cross the road to avoid awkward interactions with people I danced with at teenage discos.
Being on my school friends’ doorsteps also makes it easy to get complacent when it comes to socialising. I was two months into my first year at Trinity before I realised that I should probably introduce myself to my coursemates. I was discouraged when I discovered that Trinity Hall had already provided most of its residents with built-in best friends.
And yet, I’m sure my friends who live away from home miss the comfort of their dad’s oversized jumpers or the ease of joking with their siblings. I can’t complain about the nights when we inexplicably end up congregating in one sibling’s bedroom, joking competitively, speaking in family shorthand and swapping stories that nobody else would understand. And I don’t know if anybody is as attached to their next door neighbour’s cat as I am to mine.
Last year I went on Erasmus, which allowed me to experience what it’s like to live away from home. I found that my relationship with my parents improved once I could approach it on my own terms. I also enjoyed the feeling of self-reliance that came with being entirely responsible for my own life. It was confidence-building to navigate sharing a space with strangers and so rewarding to eventually become friends with them.
If I have children one day, I will encourage them to leave home for university. For all the home comforts, there is nothing compared to the personal development you undergo when you leave behind your childhood home and start living for yourself.
This time next year, I will have graduated, and I’ll hopefully be living in London or Paris or, at the very least, Phibsborough.
I’m looking forward to moving, but I think when the day finally comes it will be bittersweet – the familiar feeling of excitement tinged with sadness that comes with growing up, moving on and letting go. A bit like the day my mam told me and my brothers we were too old for Easter eggs.