Less than a year ago when I made my college decision, I was one of the few people staying closest to home. UF’s location was definitely a positive factor as it wasn’t too far from my family. Stationed in Gainesville, I would simply drive to Miami. But, many of my peers would have to catch a plane ride back home.
This led me to believe that continuity in my home life would remain while I also began to create my own life.
Upon coming to Gainesville, I felt like the exception. Distance became relative. Many of the people I met live two to three hours away and can’t imagine a six-hour drive to go back home. I realized I was now the one living far from home. They could visit their families with a four hour total commute, rather than a 12 hour road trip.
While meeting with a career counseling advisor, a hard truth slapped me in the face. I now live in Gainesville, FL. Yes, I understood that when I moved to college I could start creating my own life here, but I still wrote both Gainesville and Miami on my resume, as if I had a base in both cities. When told that I had to put just one city, deleting Miami felt like betrayal. It confirmed the fact that this new life was an independent life. Rather than easing into this understanding, it felt like an abrupt change from the situation I was mentally in.
While talking with a friend from high school about off-campus apartments, we wondered how five people could live in one apartment. I mentioned how five people was only one less person than my household. She responded by saying that it was, in fact, the size of my household now. This statement brought me to tears, as it proved the fact that my family’s home life had changed.
The fact that life continued at my home in Miami while I was no longer a part of it made me think about how much I missed out on.
While my family includes me in the big-picture conversations, I miss out on all the little things—dinnertime comments, catching up on shows we watched together and even “in the moment” jokes. While I create a new routine in Gainesville, I still feel tied to my home routine. With the modern advancements of technology, I participate in certain small-scale happenings. However, as soon as the FaceTime screen pauses or the audio buffers, it becomes a harsh reminder of the 340 mile distance between my dorm room and my house.
I know attending UF will allow me to not only succeed, but thrive. But as I further the discovery of my passions, I need to accept the fact that life in Miami for my family will continue without my permanent presence. My sister will perform in dance shows that I cannot attend. She will start middle school while I am in college. My brother will have stressful nights during high school that I cannot guide him through. He will apply to college as I am finishing college. Their lives will continue a forward trajectory, just as mine will. Hopefully using me as a role model, while I feel the tenderness of having to metaphorically, rather than literally, hold their hands and guide them.
Change does not come easy, but it is good, healthy and necessary. I’m not aware of the highs and lows. I find myself in moments feeling like I finally have settled, the transition period coming to an end. However, then I still find myself wishing I could teleport just to hug my family. At my core, I feel strongly connected to my family. I don’t know when or how this feeling of being torn between two cities will dissipate, but I will continue to work towards a happy medium. This changing core family connection won’t become my biggest college challenge. Instead, I will have to face the truth of adapting to my new family dynamic similar to the way I am adapting to other aspects of my college experience.