My dad used to say that our bedrooms looked like a tornado came through them when we were young, and left messes on the floor. He should’ve seen a flash-forward to today—our bedroom floors are a minefield of packages from online shopping, blankets and pillows from makeshift beds, and suitcases bursting with athleisure clothes. There are plastic bins filled with summer sandals that we rarely wear, because we don’t go out. At the foot of my bed is a tangle of cords to charge my laptop, phone, and watch. If our childhood rooms were hit by tornadoes then, now they must have endured a hurricane.
I was catapulted back to childhood when Brigham Young University went online due to the Covid-19 pandemic and I moved home to Northern California with my parents and three younger sisters. I am twenty-one, in the stage of life that most people spend as far away from their parents as possible. I mourn for my personal space, reliable career trajectory, and the comfortable bed that I left at school. However, there must be something good to be learned from living like a child again. I remembered a few trade secrets that were long forgotten: do the dishes on your own so you don’t get asked to, do your homework before watching TV, and never be the most available person in the room when the dog needs to go out. Be humble, be forgiving, and help cook dinner to avoid cleaning it up.
I am once again sleeping in the room I grew up in, and I can almost sense my younger self here with me. I think there are things we can learn from each other. She can teach me to dream again, to marvel at the rain and the worms on the pavement. I can teach her that giving is more important than receiving, a lesson she thought she learned long ago but didn’t. If she were here, I think she would crinkle her nose at my chosen major— finance— and I’d shake my head at her fantasy of becoming a famous author.
Even though I sleep in the room I grew up in, the walls are painted a different color. Every piece of furniture within the room has changed. This isn’t the same childhood that I experienced years ago; it is a strange, hybrid one. I wake up to watch lectures about economics on Zoom in the morning, and then make Froot Loop necklaces and find my old treehouse in the afternoon. I dance with my sisters for a few minutes, and then write a paper about literary theory. I can do more things now than I could when I was younger, but I wish I could channel the carefree, inquisitive energy of my childhood.
At night, my family gathers around the dinner table to share bits of news that we scavenged throughout the day from websites and social media. We trade out-of-context statistics as bedtime stories, numbers that I cannot trust but know that I should. It is a fascinating juxtaposition that the world is experiencing tragedy and loss as I experience innocence again. I want to end the suffering; I want to save the world as I dreamed of doing when I was younger. I am less naïve now. Perhaps the best I can do is to stay home and allow that hope for a better future which I used to carry, grow within me again. When I emerge from this experience, I want to be more optimistic. I want to be more determined to make positive change. I want to be closer to my family, more grateful for my friends, and more gracious in every social interaction I have.
The desire to stay up past bedtime isn’t something that one grows out of. My sisters and I sometimes gather late at night to talk about our fears, our insecurities, and our excitement for life. Of course, it is a purely imaginative exercise; real life is not progressing at the moment. One time, my mom stood in the doorway and told us stories about her college days. Someday, when it is my turn to stand in the doorway and tell stories to my kids, I will tell them that the whole world seemed to stop when I was in college. I’ll tell them that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be to live with my parents again. Childhood isn’t a stage of life that most people get a second chance at once they leave home, so I am lucky to spend this time reconnecting with my family and with the child I used to be. Besides, Froot Loop necklaces taste better than I remembered.