I’ve always had a great relationship with my family. I haven’t had a legitimate argument with my parents in years, and my mom is pretty much my best friend; we text every day, she still calls me pet names (“honey,” “pumpkin,” even “shnookie”), and I honestly don’t mind. Our relationship is so great, in fact, that I genuinely miss my family while I’m away at school. I’ve always been bad at adjusting to big changes, and I’ve had separation anxiety since I was a kid, so I thought the way to make the transition to college easiest was to stay close to home. UMD is about a 25 minute drive from my house, which allowed me to go home pretty much every weekend, and to adjust to dorm life in increments.
Even now, in the second semester of my sophomore year, I find myself going home almost every weekend.
Now, I can’t say this is a terrible thing. I always feel bad for my friends who have strained or fractured relationships with their parents, or who deliberately stay at school for long stretches of time to avoid their home lives, and I know I’m fortunate to have such a wonderful family. But sometimes I almost wish that my parents annoyed me just a little bit more.
I hate saying that, but I’ve started to think that the only way I’ll stop pining after home is to make myself crave some distance. I can’t go on like this forever. I know I’ll have to cut the cord. Not completely sever it, of course, but I can’t keep going home every weekend, or I’ll never be able to be away from my family for any substantial stretch of time.
This is why I wish my school was just a little further away. 25 minutes is peanuts, so it’s hardly even an inconvenience for my parents to come pick me up. (Even if it was, they wouldn’t tell me. They want me to come home as much as I want to be there.) There’s almost nothing stopping me from indulging myself and continuing to go home every weekend. The only minor obstacle I’ve encountered is that I feel mildly guilty for leaving my roommate alone so much, but then I remember how awesome it feels to have the room to myself when she’s not around, and I don’t feel so bad anymore.
By indulging myself every weekend and going home, I’m not doing myself any favors. I’m not getting my separation anxiety under control. I’m not even testing its bounds. I’m staying comfortable at the expense of my future. As of now, I’m in no condition to study abroad—something I’ve always wanted to do—because that would mean going cold turkey. I wouldn’t see my family for months on end, and as it is, I can barely go a week without seeing them (on the rare occasion that I do stay on campus, they come visit and take me to Sunday brunch). My future is limited in a very visible way by my attachment to my family, and that’s why I’m going to have to make some painful but necessary changes.
I’m honestly not sure how to go about it, and I haven’t committed to anything concrete yet. I know I’ve got to start small, so I tried staying on campus last weekend. There were no adverse side effects—in fact, I was unusually productive—but I know that as soon as I start lengthening the increments, I’m going to start feeling the change. It’s going to be tough, but it’ll be something I have to do, and I know I’ll be better for it in the end.
College is all about finding yourself. It’s about embracing change, about getting out of your comfort zone, and about discovering amazing new things about yourself and your potential. Some people fly too close to the sun and end up crashing and burning, but some, like me, have barely gotten our feet off the ground. I think it’s time we flew a little higher.