Cuckoo in the Nest

Cuckoo in the Nest

I met Emma Yates-Badley in the first year of my MA, and got to know her better during a run of writing retreats, first at Lumb Bank and then Moniack Mhor. A week of sharing workshops, writing time and readings-aloud at an Arvon centre is a bonding process, and I’m massively excited to see Emma taking the bold step which she talks about here in  Not the Guardian Family Section:

“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”
― Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book


When I was a little girl, my image of life was pretty simplistic:  school was something to be endured and Adulthood would be the prize for surviving adolescence (I have just reread my teenage diaries and, yes, I really was that dramatic).  One day I’d be all grown up, with slim thighs and perfectly shaped eyebrows. I’d while away the day as an all-round-amazing-arts-based professional. I’d stack my money like casino chips, publish my own masterpiece or discover the next J.K Rowling, before going home to my super-gorgeous boyfriend (probably looking something like Mark Owen from Take That) who’d never make me eat vegetables and would kiss me with tongues.

I also thought The Spice Girls were a great band, that green sparkly eye shadow was the height of sophistication, and pink flared cords were a good idea. Fast-forward eighteen years, two degrees, an overdraft, a variety of unsuitable men, two cities, and a significant quota of bad jobs, and the reality is a very different story.  I’m unemployed and have nowhere to go except back into my Mum and Dad’s open – yet slightly hesitant – arms.

Maybe it’s the economy, or our generation’s refusal to completely grow up, but, these days, living with your parents is a reality that many people in their late twenties and early thirties are facing. In the past few years, I’ve watched as many friends have moved back in with their parents for a number of reasons – losing their jobs, recovering from a break up, going back into education, trying to save money for a wedding or mortgage. According to national statistics, approximately 3 million of the UK’s 20-34 year olds are currently living with their parents – one in three men and one in seven women.

As a single woman – particularly living in London – it is near impossible to start and sustain a creative career and keep your head above water. Unless of course, you want to live in a cupboard with seventeen housemates, no kitchen and a mountain of debt.  So here I find myself – one of the so-called ‘Boomerang Generation’ – secreted in the Warwickshire countryside having chosen to leave London to further my career. Or create one.  I have taken down the curly Heat posters and relegated the teddy bears to the loft, but I’m still in my childhood bedroom. A place I never thought I’d return to on a permanent basis. At the age of twenty-eight – ten years after flying the nest, and at a time where the majority of my friends have settled down (had families, got engaged, bought houses, started businesses) – it all seems a little disheartening to be back to where it all began.

Despite reassurances from family and friends that this will only be a pause, a stopgap or breathing space, an unavoidable question refuses to pipe down: How is it that I have failed so spectacularly? I was in tears as I left London. I could barely say goodbye to my house-mate, who has become like family, and didn’t stop crying until we pulled up outside the family home some few hours later. It felt like absolute disaster and I felt like the world’s biggest loser. What would I do without my friends? Had I lost my independence?

But now a little time has passed. As my parents help buoy me up – feeding me, moving belongings, installing Sky TV so I can watch back-to-back  episodes of Criminal Minds in my pajamas, plying me with pinot noir, encouraging me to do something different and generally being fantastic human beings – I’m reminded why I made the decision to move. Holding onto my childhood dream of becoming a writer may seem ridiculous (I was asked by a former colleague what I was going to do when I left and when I replied that I wanted to write a novel, he laughed at me) but to me, the ridiculous option was staying in a job where I felt stagnant, underused and undervalued. For me, a blind acceptance of that life would have been my true failure.

It’s time to start looking at the year ahead as a blank page. I can do anything now the shackles are off. The time I have – and the home my parents have so lovingly provided for me – is a gift, not a setback, and I have decided to use it to my advantage.

Write a great novel. Write a bad novel. Run off and see the world. Who knows?  But every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.


Emma Yates Badley

Emma Yates-Badley was born and raised in Warwickshire, but has spent the past ten years living in Manchester and London. After taking some ‘time out’ she is now hiding out in The Shire on the lookout for hobbits, decent job prospects or a rich husband. She has a Masters degree in creative writing, writes Young Adult fiction and blogs its progress along with her love of pugs, chaotic life choices and excuses for not writing at She is in the process of writing her first Young Adult novel and can also be found tweeting nonsense @EmmaYatesBadley.




  1. Fionnuala
    31 Jan 2014

    Hi, what an incredibly moving piece… I for one am rooting for Emma. A brave choice and one that I have the instinctive feeling will pay off for her. F

    • Giselle
      5 Jun 2014

      Hi, Well done! Always worth it for the writing I reckon 🙂


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