The first 18 years of my life spent under my parents’ roof and rules was the equivalent to living under house arrest. I couldn’t go very far and someone was always a few steps behind watching my every move. It came as no surprise that by the beginning of junior year of high school, I was beyond ready to graduate and leave the only things I knew behind: my parents and wide array of stuffed animals and porcelain dolls that used to be dear friends. To this day, when people ask what my favorite part of college is, my first instinct is to respond, “being away from my parents.” I mean, I could live solely off chicken nuggets and Capri Sun and not have to worry about my mom’s lectures. Immediately, my first impression of college was that I never wanted to leave (Hello, chicken nuggets 24/7), but that all changed once I was actually away.
I wasn’t surprised that the first few weeks were nothing shy of The Office style shenanigans. Exploring a huge campus with those classic college-red bricks with a few of my wide-eyed peers was an experience like no other. I was like Michael Scott running through Dunder Mifflin creating all sorts of havoc. In these first moments, I felt welcomed and seemingly at home. I was even cozy in my freezing little dorm room. It was shocking yet comforting that I fell asleep so easily every night in that tiny twin extra long bed with a stranger sleeping less than three feet away from me.
While I’d heard stories at Preview of people having to go to the counseling center for help transitioning into college life, I was OK. The change hadn’t hit me hard. Yet.
Two weeks after move-in day, my roommate’s parents came to visit for parents weekend. From matching T-shirts to lacrosse games, it’s safe to say I didn’t see her all weekend long. Seriously, she even slept in her parents’ hotel room so she could shower sans flip-flops. I had never been more jealous of bare feet in my life.
Alone for the first time in my dorm room and being able to walk around in my birthday suit gave me time to think about living away from home for the first time since I watched my family drive out of the Beaty parking lot from the fifth floor. I was living on my own. I had to cook for myself and remember how to do my laundry so I didn’t shrink another T-shirt or skirt. Seeing my roommate spending so much time with her parents made me miss mine. A lot. It finally became crystal clear to me that the girl who wanted to make her great escape to college wanted to be back home after just two weeks. So much for the carefree do-whatever-I-want-when-I-want college lifestyle I’d envisioned.
Around the same time my family threw this huge party for my aunt’s birthday. These parties were always a big deal–think the Kardashians (but klassier). Even family from Canada showed up. Plastered on everyone’s Facebook wall were photos from the party including the iconic cousin picture that my family took at every family event. It was always Instagram worthy and always included every girl cousin between the ages of 10 and forty, and I wasn’t in it. New baby cousins were running around the house, gossip was being shared and the only way I even knew about these things was from social media and the measly group chat between my sisters and me.
I felt like I was missing out on everything back home. Sure, I’d spent time away from home before, but camping for the weekend with my Girl Scout troop didn’t compare to this. I was homesick. As easily as I slept in my dorm room, there was nothing I wanted more than to walk down the hall and lay in my parents’ king size bed or drive down the street to my sister’s house and help her make dinner.
Being away from home made me realize how easy it was to feel lonely and isolated. Regardless of sharing my space with someone else and going to a university with thousands of other first time adults I sometimes felt like Macaulay Culkinin in Home Alone. I thought living on my own was going to be this grand experience when in reality it made me want my mom to call for the fourth time that day.
My move from cul-de-sac to college wasn’t groundbreaking and it sure as hell wasn’t what I expected. Yes, I had newfound freedom to, in fact, make the club go up on a Tuesday and then skip my 8:30 a.m. “Introduction to International Relations” class the next morning (Sorry, mom), but every now and then I wish my dad was there hovering in the door way with his classic facial expression that reads, “What the hell are you doing with your life?” And I think that’s OK. I admit, I’ve been in college for a year, and sometimes I wish I was in my backyard for a Friday night family barbecue instead of in Midtown getting cheap, greasy pizza from Pizza by the Slice.
I guess it’s time to take friends to family-status. We can barbecue in the dorms, right?