During our time up in the Sacramento area, we’re staying with my best friend from college, who recently moved here for work and also purchased a beautiful, spacious home. We had good timing in our arrival because in the weeks leading up to our visit, she was just starting to buy furniture for her guest bedroom. I was so happy for her to find out she was buying her own place, and in California of all places! After medical school, an interruption with medical school due to a sudden diagnosis of a rare lymphoma, treatment and recovery, restarting medical school, residency, and fellowship, she said she finally feels like an “adult” with an adult job and finally her own home. She’s been through so much personally. And now, she finally feels like she’s at a comfortable place in her life.
Well, sort of comfortable. Her brother was already living in Sacramento, and so when she secured her job offer up here, her mother immediately said she wanted to leave Arkansas to be closer to two out of three of her children. So her mom came out to live with her. Her brother ended his month-to-month setup at his apartment to temporarily move in with her while looking to buy his own home closer to the city center. And finally just this last week, her dad, after getting rid of the last items to give away or sell at their Little Rock home in preparation to close their house, flew out to Sacramento. So in other words, her entire family minus her sister and husband are now living with her with no definitive end. Her parents *claim* that they will be looking to buy their own home once their Little Rock home closes. And while I already got suspicious of her parents’ intention in coming out to settle in Sacramento before even seeing the house when she originally told me of this plan, once I walked into her house on Sunday night, I knew my suspicions were pretty solid: the dining area at the entrance was already set up with her mother’s Buddhist praying area and shrines. The walls on both floors were decorated as though it was a family home, with their individual graduation portraits, family and extended family photos. She even gave up the master bedroom with ensuite to her parents and took the smaller bedroom for herself next door! None of this was surprising to me.
At dinner this evening, I asked my friend about the setup, and she insisted it would be temporary and that things were fine now. But her body language said otherwise: her shoulders got higher up closer to her ears and she seemed tense. She also started speaking more slowly about it, as though she was trying to be very deliberate about each word she spoke regarding the matter.
I’ve always thought that her relationship with her family was a bit too suffocating and dysfunctional. And in return, she’s made a few jabs at me over the years for living across the country from my own parents, insinuating that I think about myself first before my family. But my main concern for her is that she will never fully have independence from them and live her own life. What would life be like if she ends up living with them forever, with her mom cooking for her until the day she dies and her dad sitting around, waiting to be catered to? How will she ever meet a potential life partner who would actually put up with this? We’re not in Vietnam; we’re living in a western country with western ways of living.
At the end of the day, we choose our life paths as individuals. We have our own values, our own beliefs about what is right and wrong, so I can’t really say much about her decisions. I just hope she actually gets to a place where she genuinely is happy and doesn’t feel a need to be so guarded about the way she speaks about her family or their relationship.