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What if you were on the cusp of marrying the guy of your dreams and reaching that career goal you set for yourself, only for all of it to be taken away in one fell swoop? What if this all happened a month before you turned 30? This is the story of Jill Stevens, who after moving back home, finds a list she made in high school of thirty things she wanted to accomplish before her thirtieth birthday. With a month left and hardly anything crossed off her list, she teams up with old friends to accomplish as much as she can before the big 3-0. Along the way, she discovers her true self and realizes it’s not about the material successes in life but the journey.
“So do you want to talk about it?” my mom finally asks me, taking a seat next to me with a cup of tea.
“I’m not really ready to recap,” I tell her with a mouth full of peanut butter. “I’m still trying to process everything.”
My mother basically got the hysterical gist of it when I called her at midnight, crying, and all she could make out was “pig head … boyfriend … cheated on me … fired … homeless.” She sat on the phone with me while I tried to pull myself together, and finally ordered me to pack up and get on the next train home.
“I understand,” she says, sounding disappointed. “We can talk about what you want to do for your birthday coming up.”
I look up mid-bite to stare at her.
“It’s your thirtieth, it’s a big deal,” she presses.
Yes, I know it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal because that’s when you’re supposed to have your life together. “Mom, that’s really the last thing I want to think about right now.”
“Fine,” she says getting frustrated. After a few minutes of silence, she leans forward as if to say something and then retreats.
“What’s wrong?” I ask her, knowing I won’t be able to avoid hearing what she wants to say.
“Well, I mean, aside from wanting to know what happened, I want to know what your plan is to get past this? I don’t want you just sulking around the house for the next few weeks.”
“Come on, Mom it’s been twelve hours since my life fell apart. I can’t get a full day to mourn here?”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” she defends herself, shaking her head as if I’ve blown things all out of proportion. “I was just reading this pamphlet about how to handle adult children living at home that I downloaded off the Internet.” She stands up and pulls it out of a drawer underneath the phone. Then she hands it to me. I scan it over. “When the Empty Nest Becomes Full Again,” I read. “I don’t plan on being here that long,” I say, handing it back to her. “Think of it as a two-week vacation.”
She doesn’t say anything. She simply shrugs and puts the pamphlet back in the drawer.
Finally, I give in and proceed to tell her what happened. My father, who’s come in from the garage to get his keys out of the drawer, listens in and eventually joins us at the table.
“Those bastards,” he contributes.
“Tell me about it,” I say, looking down at my milk and swirling the liquid inside the glass.
“Can you sue them?” my mom suggests.
“For what, exactly? Even if I could, it’s a law firm. You ever try to sue a bunch of lawyers?”
They’re both silent for a moment and give each other nervous looks. It’s obvious they’re trying to be supportive but they don’t really know what to say.
“It’s fine.” I try to convince them and myself. “I’m going to call a headhunter first thing Monday morning and I’m going to bounce back from this in no time. I’ll start looking at apartment listings today. Everything will be fine.” I stand up from my chair.
“I think you should at least stay here until you find another job,” my mother says. “There’s no sense in you getting an apartment somewhere and finding out your job is a far commute.”
Stay here? I do a double take. I can’t imagine doing that. “Mom, it’s New York. No matter where I get an apartment, as long as it’s in Manhattan, the commute will be doable.” I stand up and dump the remainder of my milk in the sink and load my glass and plate into the dishwasher.
“Well, what if you don’t get a job in New York?” she says, turning around in her chair to face me.
“Why wouldn’t I get a job in New York?” I ask, confused, as I close the dishwasher and stare out the window. I feel my body turn to ice at the thought.
“Well, Jill,” my dad says, “the job market is pretty bad, and as great as your resume and your education are, there may not be a lot of opportunities out there.”
“All we’re saying is maybe you’ve outgrown the city, and maybe now it’s time to settle somewhere closer to home. Maybe you’ll meet someone and settle down,” my mom concludes.
“Really?” I say, shaking my head. “You’re really giving me the you-aren’t-getting-any-younger speech when I’m already at the lowest point in my life?” I start to storm towards the hallway. I really don’t need to be hearing this right now.
“Sweetie, it’s not that I’m trying to kick you while you’re down, I’m just saying maybe it’s time to start reassessing your life.” My mom stands up to follow me.
“Thanks for the talk,” I say, walking past her and back up to my room. I suddenly feel like I’m a teenager again as I slam the door to my room.
“Marilynn, she just got home. Go easy on her,” I hear my dad defend me.
“Martin, I’m just following the pamphlet,” she insists.
“Well stop reading,” he says. “This is our daughter, not a case study.”
Living at home with my parents in my thirties? Maybe I really am a case study. I barely made it out alive the first time, how the hell am I supposed to do it all over again?
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Courtney Psak is a New Jersey native who grew up with a passion for reading and writing. After traveling the world, she settled into New York City where she earned her Masters in Publishing. She is a member of the National Writers Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She currently resides in Hoboken with her husband. She spends her weekends seeking adventure through hiking, skiing and traveling.