This is a reader submission for our Big Girl Badge week. Tell us how you evolved from woman-child to woman, and you could win hundreds of dollars of prizes! (Send your 800 word submissions to Jennifer [at] or Ashley [at]

I can already hear the groaning, but bear with me for a moment, here. Unlike the prototypical woman child, I DID NOT move back in with my parents after college. Facing the end of my academically oriented four years, and still no closer to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, I joined Teach for America. Partly because of Educational Inequality. Partly because of the Desire For Change. But mostly… because I didn’t want to move back home with my parents.

And for two years, I thought that making a decent living, trying to change the world, and barely seeing my parents earned me my Big Girl Badge. I paid (most of) my bills on time. I wore adult-girl pants. I had a serious job. But I was miserable. I made awful decision – about boys, food, money, alcohol. And facing the end of my two Teach For America years, I realized I had two options: I could stay in the city I loved with my friends and be a big girl, try to make enough money to survive, and put off having to make any big decisions about my life or I could move back in with my parents and really figure shit out. In my rush to be an Adult, I had skipped the most important step in actually maturing: figuring out who the hell you are.

Moving back in with Mom and Dad was the hardest decision I ever made – not because my parents were scary monster people (they’re not, they’re lovely!) or because my home town sucked (it’s smaller than New York, but not exactly hickville) . Rather, this decision was hard because I had clung for so long onto the image of myself as a grown up making better decisions than all the other losers. Letting go of this façade meant giving up my safety blanket that let me feel better than everybody else. It meant accepting that life wasn’t just one solid trajectory from high school to college to career to adult womanhood.

Before I left teaching, a good friend of mine condescendingly said to me, “I think we’ll all just be really relieved when you ACTUALLY leave your parents house.” Although mostly a lovely, supportive person, the message my friend was telling me was clear: by moving home, I was taking myself off my friends level, becoming one of the people we all pitied. I was no longer an adult.

While living with my parents, I spent a lot of time bored. I spent a lot of time thinking. I picked up jobs that didn’t mean anything to me, and found myself surprised by how many skills I had acquired during my years of being professionally miserable. I thought about the dreams I’d had when I started college. I talked, for hours, with my parents and friends about what I wanted to do with my life. And I started making better decisions – learned to cook, started exercising, created a budget that actually worked for me. It was hard to talk to friends who thought that living in New York or LA and barely scraping by on jobs they hated made them more adult than me. I wanted so badly to fulfill my imaginary sense of adulthood, and just as importantly I wanted everyone around to recognize that Adultness in me. But for the first time in my life, I was given the distance necessary to actually make decisions with the idea of an adult Rachael in mind.

By giving up some cookie cutter idea of adulthood, I figured out what I was really good at and what I really wanted out of my life. I also saved up enough money to make a really adult move (across the country) and pursue my dreams in an adult way. And I did it all BECAUSE I put on my big girl panties and risked seeming less adult.