When I visited Seattle for the first time, I stayed with a friend of a friend named Jesse. It was kind of him to take in a stranger on such short notice, without knowing things like whether I shower ever. I’d decided to go to Seattle only a few days before and had no idea where I was going to stay. I half-seriously considered sleeping on park benches, thinking it would make a good story one day. I’m glad I didn’t do that because it rained.
I arrived on a Friday, so when Jesse got off work, he showed me around town, acting as a voluntary tour guide and impressing me with his knowledge of a city he didn’t even grow up in. The only fact I know about Glendale, California — my hometown since 1995 — is that it’s one of the largest Armenian communities outside of Armenia. Given that I’ve never fact-checked that, it’s possible that I, in fact, do not know anything about my hometown.
At some point the conversation drifted toward relationships. I find that relationship talk is a good way to size people up. You find out a lot about a person’s maturity, like how they handle their emotions, what they do to get what they want, and whether they cry at night. So we began talking about relationships and Jesse mentioned that he’d been single for over a year.
“Do you miss being in a relationship?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Like, do you ever feel lonely, or miss the company, or consider getting back with your ex?”
“No, I don’t,” he said. “I don’t wish to subscribe to the thought that I need someone to complete me. It implies that I was born incomplete and destined to live my life searching for that person to finish me. No person is born in two halves and so no person should feel lesser for not having someone to reflect and reciprocate them daily.”
Over a hundred eighty days have passed since this conversation, and yet his response has stayed with me, outlasting thousands of memories created in that time. I mean, sure, I knew what he said in theory, but I’d never met someone who believed it and lived it and said it with such conviction. It became something I aspired to, though I always fell short. Until recently.
Some parents pressure their kids about their careers. Others pressure their kids to get married. Mine gently encouraged me to move back home. But I didn’t want to. I’d been living in Downtown L.A. with friends for two years and enjoyed my self-reliance, my social life, and my curved shower rod.
Plus, I was afraid of regressing. My parents spoiled me and my brother growing up. There were few things we couldn’t do or have because, like all well-meaning parents, they wanted us to be happy. But having a spoiled, comfortable life is a risk: chances are you’ll become a lazy slob, an entitled brat, or some hybrid slobbrat. So when I finally moved out, I had a lot to prove, especially to myself.
Living on my own, I experienced my first true hardship when I struggled to find a job for months, tapping my savings to pay rent. Finally, when my savings ran out and I was at the brink of desperation, I landed a job through a friend. Grateful for the stroke of luck and steady income, I immediately learned how to manage my finances, paying off $2,500 in credit card debt, raising my credit score from the low 600s to just shy of 800, and saving up a healthy five digits — all in a year and a half. I also learned that I actually enjoy washing dishes and I finally, finally learned how to do my own laundry.
As 2010 was coming to an end, so was my lease, and my mom once again suggested I move back home. Except this time I agreed. There were a couple of reasons for the change of heart, which I won’t get into here, but all in all it just felt right. But still the worry remained at the back of my mind that all my progress could come undone the moment I felt comfortable at home again.
The weekend I moved back, my mom asked me what I eat for breakfast.
“Two hard-boiled eggs,” I told her.
“That’s it. Nothing else.”
And the next morning I awoke to find three hard-boiled eggs, already peeled. And again the next morning. And the next morning. And every morning since.
So what does my spoiled upbringing have to do with relationships? Or Valentine’s Day? Or anything else for that matter?
It was the weekend before Valentine’s Day, and after a long day of cleaning and unpacking, I lay in bed feeling accomplished and let my thoughts wander. I began thinking about a couple girls I’d been interested in: Would I be happier with this person or that person…or some other person I haven’t even met yet? Should I date one of my exes again, even though there are some serious concerns, just because I’m that attracted to her? How would my life be different if I was in a relationship?
That last question got me thinking: how would my life be different if I was in a relationship?
I remembered what my life was like in past relationships — how distracted I was, how little time I spent on myself — and I realized that yes, things would be different, definitely better in some ways, but what would I be giving up for it? I thought about my life as it is right now and, in a moment of sudden clarity, it dawned on me: I’m already happy.
I’m happy that I have the time and energy to invest in myself — to exercise, to read, to teach myself programming, to learn the Beatles anthology on the piano. I’m happy that I have friends who enrich me and reciprocate my love. I’m happy that I like and respect my coworkers, that every one of them is friendly and honest and good. I’m happy that I got a brand new 27” iMac for work. I’m happy that I’m going to Japan for the first time next month. I’m happy that my nutrition and genetic tests came back positive. I’m happy that I’m saving so much money living at home. I’m happy that my longer commute allows me to listen to shows I love. I’m happy that I finally learned how to make two machines wash and dry my clothes.
And yes, I’m happy that my parents spoil me.
Because spoiling me is how they show their love for me. And I’m so, so thankful that they love me this much. When I eventually move out, my relationship with them will never be like this again. And one day, when they pass away, I’m going to look back at these moments as the time I spent with them when I was most like myself. When that day comes, when I’m grasping for memories I can no longer make with the people who never stopped loving me unconditionally, I want to be able to remember because I was paying attention. I wasn’t sitting at breakfast eating my pre-peeled hard-boiled eggs, distracted by thoughts of some girl and the hope that she might love me as much as my parents already do.