As a teenager, I was so eager to move out of my mom’s place. Not only did I feel restricted and unable to grow as an independent, but my relationship with my family was very unhealthy.

My dad had just come back into our lives after struggling as an alcoholic for over 10 years. It was weird; it felt too late for me to have an appropriate father figure because I was already 18 and had been taking care of myself and my 8-year-old sister since she was born. Having him in the house just felt like a body taking up empty space.

Everyday, my mom and I would argue about something new and irrelevant. Sometimes we argued for so long that we would forget what we were arguing about and just remain mad at each other for the rest of the night and repeat the process the next day.

I couldn’t stand being home so I’d stay out as long as I could, whether it was at parties, with friends or even just sitting on the curb down the street. Home just didn’t feel like it was home for me.

After years of waiting, I moved out of my mom’s apartment and into one of my own.

The day after my graduation from the College of the Sequoias, my girlfriend Julissa and I packed my things into her car and I moved to Fresno.

I was ecstatic to finally be living under my own roof and calling my own shots… at least for the first few weeks. Although Fresno wasn’t far from my mom in Visalia, I had no car and no friends to hang out with. If I wasn’t at work or with my girlfriend, then I was pretty much alone.

The ecstatic feeling I felt of being on my own only lasted a few weeks. I was used to always being around people, no matter what the environment was, so the continuous feeling of being alone suddenly felt like I was isolated from the world. I didn’t bother to hit up any of my family or friends, nor did they bother to check in on me. The more I was alone, the more I began to get lost in my thoughts. I blamed myself for distant relationships with my mom, dad and friends. I’d see constant posts of my friends hanging out and I’d never get an invite. I felt alone and desolate.

I didn’t bother sharing what I was feeling with anyone until Julissa started to notice that I wasn’t as talkative or happy as I normally was.

I didn’t really want to talk about it, but I felt like I had to because it was having an effect on our relationship. I spilled all these bottled up thoughts and emotions. I told her how I wish my relationship with my mom was better so I could give her a call and how I wish she would call to ask about me and how I was doing instead of calling to tell me about all the trips she was going on. I told her about how tired I was of feeling alone and living in a space that made me feel like I was separated from society, how tight money was becoming and how I had been biting my tongue so I wouldn’t reveal to her that I was only eating one meal a day.

I told Julissa all these things and found myself in tears. I told her all I really wanted to tell my mom was that I miss her without it feeling like a stab to my heart. She ordered us a pizza and told me she felt the same way when she first moved out.

She took me to Visalia the next day so we could visit my mom. It was my first time visiting her after being gone for almost two months.

We got into town and instead of arguing, my mom was actually talking to me. She barbecued for us and we spent the day eating and talking. After a few hours, I finally let my guard down so I could be comfortable around my own family. My time away from home was like hitting the refresh button.

I didn’t bother sharing with my mom what I shared with Julissa because, no matter what kind of relationship my mom and I have, I never want her to worry about me. My dad helped us pack some waters and leftover food from the barbecue into the car and Julissa and I headed home.

On the drive back home, Julissa listened to me ramble on about how different it felt to be at my mom’s and my continuous questions of why couldn’t it have been like this when I lived there. She explained to me that when she first moved out, her relationship with her mom was so much like my own, that all they needed was some time apart from each other to rejuvenate the relationship. It made so much sense.

Here I am now, living on my own for almost three years, feeling so much wiser, more independent and finally learning to appreciate my time apart from everyone instead of seeing it as a moment of isolation. Julissa and I have a place of our own with her dog, so it never feels lonely anymore. I also have a car of my own that I can use to drive and meet up with some friends I’ve made here in Fresno and even visit friends and family back in Visalia.

Most importantly, I learned to control my emotions, practice patience and look at even the darkest of things and thoughts in a brighter light.

My dad has now been almost two years sober and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Although he’s never felt like a father figure to me, I’m glad he can be one for my little sister. Growing up, it was tough to be both a fun big brother and a serious father-like figure because, while I was supposed to be a mentor, I was still figuring myself out.

My relationship with my family is as strong as its ever been. It’s so hard to remember a time that it was ever unhealthy to begin with. My mom and I call each other at least once a week to check up on one another, and I try to visit my family at least once a month. I really do appreciate the time I spend with my family now and always wish I could extend my visits, but I also realised that I must sacrifice some of that time to further my education, relationship, and structure the foundation for my own success.

Although I was excited to finally have a place of my own and get some time apart from my family, I didn’t take into consideration how drastically a change in setting could affect my moods, emotions and thoughts until it happened to me. It was through the battles with myself that I learned to discover who I am.

Now I appreciate all the tough times I faced with my family – and with my own conscious- because it makes me appreciate where I am and where I’m going.

Christian Navarro (he/him/his)
Christian Navarro, 22, is a pawrent of three dogs. He is from Visalia and is currently going to Fresno State to pursue a major in English Education. His hobbies include: dancing, taking photos and playing Smash Bros. and Apex.

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