Even if you're independent and mature for your age, it's hard to anticipate the loneliness of your first solo apartment. Which is why, after my parents moved the last box into my new home and left, I did the following: I climbed on top of my dining room table/desk and cried.
To say that I planned on moving out at the first chance is an understatement. Though I'm lucky to have a great relationship with my parents, I wasn't lucky enough to avoid the arbitrary resentment and stubbornness that plagues every young adult from age 18-22. And though I was certainly annoying, I did have enough of a work ethic to save enough money to move into my first place, sans roommates, at 22. (How did I do this? By working about three jobs at once during college, taking care of my grandmother in exchange for free off-off-campus housing and apparently never sleeping.)
Though it wasn't in a trendy neighborhood and had the dimensions of a shoebox, my first place was housed in a Royal Tenenbaums-esque building and had a (non-working) marble fireplace. In this backdrop of faded grandeur, I conducted myself with the zeal of a Dickensian orphan. Free of the confines of parental guidance, I ate exactly one meal a day, scavenged from whatever was in grabbing distance inside the cabinets, while huddled up in blankets to protect myself against the mysterious drafts that circulated through the combination living/bedroom.
Later, I would realize that "old-world charm" was synonymous with "absentee landlord."
It hadn't helped that I signed up for a demanding job in demanding conditions with a demanding boss. Though I would thrive in the conditions somehow, the only directly visible beneficiary at the time for the 12-hour days seemed to be the Seagram's Corporation.
Yes, I entertained. Yes, I dated. But overall, it was an adjustment period that I just hadn't anticipated. And when you're 22 and afflicted with arbitrary stubbornness, you forget a big thing: That this is a rite of passage that all adults, at some point, have experienced. At 22, you can't possibly think of your parents as ever being your age. It's unfortunate, because that's when you need to imagine just that.
A few weeks later, I admitted defeat and went to visit my parents. You know they can just tell when you're bothered, lonely or existing on s'mores? It must be something in your eyes. Anyway, after cooking me a proper meal, my father handed me...a Swiss Army knife.
I know, it's such a Dad thing to do. I was appropriately mystified, since I wasn't planning on going huntin', fishin' or anything that would ever end with an n'. But he explained, cryptically, that it would make sense one day. It was very similar to the time he dropped me off at college and handed me a Motley Crue tape. (Mentally, I've rewritten the scene to have him hand me Theatre Of Pain and say "This has always brought me luck," like Elizabeth Taylor in a White Diamonds commercial.)
Over the years, I would find plenty of reasons to use a Swiss Army knife. First of all, if I ever park in a garage, the attendant takes note of the knife dangling from the keychain and knows that I mean business. Relatedly, I feel much better walking down the street from the subway. It's a spring in my step that lets everyone know that I'm carrying a Swiss Army knife.
But mostly, I use it for the every day things that you would use a Swiss Army knife for: Cutting through tightly-secured packages, putting together furniture and opening bottles when the standard tools can't be readily found. The corkscrew has been used so many times that it opens on its own.
In short, it's like having a Dad around, even though he's technically about a hundred miles away. Years later, whenever I look at the Swiss Army knife, I think not only of him and my Mom, but of just how far I've come from that first apartment loneliness and all the baggage of being a 22-year-old. I'm in a different place now, in every sense of the word. It would, in fact, stun 22-year-old me to know how much things change in a span of a few years. Or it would make that version of me run for the s'mores and ratty blanket. Like the Dad lion appearing to Simba in The Lion King, the knife says "Remember who you are." And remember that, even at your most obnoxious moments, there are people who not only tolerate you, but love you.
Though I still have no idea what that Motley Crue tape was for.