Tyler York lives in a comfortable space above a three-car garage. He has his own entrance and kitchenette stocked with Capri Sun and frozen bagels. There's a queen-sized bed, a plush leather couch and a large, flat-screen TV. The land around the house is wooded with old oaks and maples, and the yard is curated by the former president of the local garden club. There's an in-ground pool out back with an HGTV-inspired slide.
It's a great life, and none of it belongs to him.
His actual possessions, the ones he would take if he moved, could fit in the trunk of his 1998 Volvo: his clothes, a half-dozen pairs of shoes, a laptop, a tennis racket, a few baseball bats, a gun that belonged to his grandfather, cheap sunglasses, a bottle of Yves Saint Laurent cologne.
He has three part-time jobs, none of which require regular hours in an office, most of which can be juggled from the couch. Tyler is not beholden to a cubicle, to clutter, an apartment lease or plans for next Tuesday night.
"I'm still kind of in that process of experimenting," he says, wondering "which avenue is the proper one to go down."
He could be talking about work, where to live, life itself: "I don't want to jump into something and have that be, like, a tie-down."
He is lucky, he knows. The garage apartment is attached to his parents' house. The gardener is his mom. In exchange for chores, his parents do not ask for rent or demand he find his own health insurance. They tell him they love him every day. He's fit and tan from hours of golf and tennis, every short sun-bleached-brown hair in place. He gets along with his brothers. His girlfriend is adorable. His car is reliable. His debt is paid off.
If there's a complaint from him -- and really, there's not -- it's that the wireless Internet connection doesn't reach the pool.
Still, this is not how he pictured life at 25. Like a lot of millennials, he once saw a clear track: college, career, home, family. Job plans were derailed by the economy, but even as full-time opportunities arose, Tyler turned away from that path. In a noisy, crowded, competitive life, he discovered a quiet moment between youth and adulthood and decided to linger.
This pause could last another few months, maybe another year. Not forever. He allows he might want the apartment and the office job someday, or even soon. He's not sure about the rest.
Sometimes, he gets in the car for long drives to nowhere in particular. Once he might have considered it a waste of time, but lately he thinks he gets a lot done when he lets his mind drift: work, his little brother's college decision, his friends' money worries, politics, the world, right and wrong, what's next.
"What's going on?" he wonders. "Am I really happy?"
In November, for the second time since he's been eligible to vote, he will walk into the booth as an Independent and cast a ballot for president. His political opinions rock and sway as he learns more; he's not enthused by Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, but he feels an obligation to make an educated choice.
Simply by growing up in New Hampshire, Tyler soaked in the politics of its swing-state status and precious early primary. It holds only four electoral votes, but campaigns know they can put competitors on defense here. Obama won New Hampshire in 2008, but Romney is a friendly face, a former governor of neighboring Massachusetts who owns a vacation home on Lake Winnipesaukee, about 60 miles from Tyler's parents' house.
This election season, like all the others, diners and churches are crammed with candidates and their surrogates. Political signs skewer every corner. Rally traffic is terrible. TV, unwatchable. Tyler's parents' land line will ring for weeks with pollsters collecting more of those famously independent New Hampshire opinions.
Candidates are fighting for voters like Tyler. He's a millennial who doesn't always know what he believes but remains confident the country can be better. In New Hampshire, people younger than 30 turn out in high numbers almost every Election Day, according to the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
Young voters boosted Obama's win in 2008, and both campaigns are chasing them now. They're on college campuses to talk up affordable education. Romney is hoping Paul Ryan, a 42-year-old Gen-Xer, will inspire young people. Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, a major issue for many millennials.
Back in 2008, Obama had Tyler's vote. Not anymore, or at least, not yet. Tyler was in college then, caught up in a hopeful narrative. He believed Obama was serious about cutting out the partisan wrangling that gridlocks Washington and divides the country, but he's seen no change. He's disillusioned, but distrustful of the Republican option, too. He saw one version of Romney across the state line but sees a different man on the campaign trail now. To Tyler, Romney never seemed like a guy who wanted to hear other people's perspectives. In the New Hampshire primary, which Romney decisively won, Tyler voted for Jon Huntsman.
Still unburdened by the stuff of adulthood, weighing what it means to lead a good life, this might be the first big choice Tyler makes.
He doesn't believe his indecision stems from youth, naïveté or ignorance. He thinks people favor parties, incumbents or familiar faces because they're too overwhelmed to ask important questions of the candidates -- and themselves.
"People settle for it to be easier," he says.
Tyler is deciding he doesn't want to live that way. He is coming to believe this uncertainty is how it's supposed to work, that none of those choices are meant to be easy.
Tyler has lived in his parents' cream-colored colonial most of his life. He was just a few weeks old when the York family moved to this cul-de-sac in the Manchester suburb of Bedford.
His parents, Gail and Don, had been high school sweethearts in Manchester, about an hour's drive from Boston. They saved for a house before they married, saved for babies before they were pregnant and saved for college once they were expecting.
"I feel like we were more grown up sooner, in a way," Gail York says. "We were very diligent, and kind of disciplined, kind of ready to take on responsibility."