When I was 20 years old, I moved out of home. As a Muslim female of Indian background, whenever I told someone living in an apartment in the city, they would look at me with anguish and surprise. More often than not, I got back responses asking whether everything was ok at home, or if I was kicked out. I felt like every time I told someone where I lived, I had to attach a disclaimer that my parents actually encouraged it for studying and independence.

Whilst living in a small studio apartment in Ultimo, I started to realise what luxuries I was giving up. It’s little things that you don’t even realise, like, toilet paper and dish washing liquid – grocery shopping or having the fridge and pantry stocked and food cooked ready on the table.

It also took me about a year to stop feeling lonely. Going from a house of 10 to just 1, I had a lot of time to think, figure out what kind of person I was on my own. It made me realise how important communication is with family members and friends.

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Living alone gave me the time and space to focus on myself, on my studies and my job. I was not distracted by anyone and was able to only think for myself.

I was able to set rules for myself and developed the kind of living i wanted: what time I got home after a party, having friends over and whenever I wanted to clean the apartment. I learnt a lot about shopping smart, learning how much things cost and which one had better value. I also was able to explore my own cooking habits, and develop my passion for trying and making different cultural foods.

Living in the city was extremely convenient when I would go out, there were a variety of options to eat and places to go and getting home was a short bus ride away.

After six years, I moved back home. My friends gave me sympathetic looks like I was giving up my freedom. I had to explain to them that this decision was one that I was excited for. My family needed me and I was happy to return back. I knew my mother was relieved, she would say “it was very difficult without you here”. She needed a lot of my help in the kitchen and around the house.

When I arrived, I realised how important it was for me to come home and help out. My parents were getting older and I wanted to take on some of the responsibilities and stress that they have to endure. I also wanted to let them know how much of a support I wanted to be for them. Whether it was kicking my mum out of the kitchen to stop her overworking herself, bringing my parents food in bed, looking after their health or just spending time with them watching movies.

The change of pace took some time to adjust, and I needed some time to myself. After that period of adjustment, I was ready to take on living at home. A few friends were surprised that I didn’t hate moving back, expecting rare social outings. I am very lucky, my parents are understanding and supportive of the person I am after having lived out of home for six years. They see the value in guiding me and letting me make my own decisions, without telling me what to do.

Now that I am back home, I want to take care of my parents and ensure that they are well supported. Looking after my parents is my own duty and I appreciate what a blessing it is to support and spend time with them.