One of the things I took for granted before college was having off school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holy Days. When I was little, spending those holidays sitting in services had me wishing I was in school; but as I got older and my family developed our own traditions, I was grateful to have the day to relax and focus on celebrating the holiday with my family. There were two years where I went to a private school and had to miss school on those days, but the work I missed was pretty easy to make up. However, college around the holidays is very different.
I'm lucky because if I wanted to go home, I could. I know people who need to book a flight far in advance if they want to go home, so going home for Yom Kippur, which falls on a Wednesday this year, just isn't a possibility. I only live an hour from school, and an absence for religious reasons is excused, so going home is definitely an option. But missing work in college is a lot different than in high school. It was only the third week of school and I didn't want to be behind already, so I made the decision to stay here.
I forgot how rough Rosh Hashanah was last year until this year came around, and I found myself feeling really down again. Although my family FaceTimed me into our annual "Rosh by the River," it wasn't the same. Times like these make me realize that life back home goes on without me, which seems obvious but isn't something I think about a lot. Admittedly, I spent a lot of my Rosh Hashanah crying because I wanted to be home with my family.
Eventually, I realized that Rosh Hashanah was happening whether I liked it or not, so I might as well make the most of it. I thought about going to Chabad for services and dinner but realized that in my fragile state, this would just make me miss my family more. So I rounded up my second family, also known as some of my best friends. We had a Rosh Hashanah dinner in the dining hall, where I ate a cupcake as something round and sweet. To explain, Jews eat a round challah on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize how the year is round; the sweetness was to substitute for the apples dipped in honey that we eat to represent a sweet new year.
Although I was not able to do Tashlich--a tradition where Jews cast pieces of bread into a moving body of water to symbolize throwing away our sins and starting the year off right--my roommate and I had our annual tradition of throwing pieces of bread in the toilet while naming the sins we committed in the past year.
I really missed my family. But I realized that as I get older, I'll be able to start new traditions with my friends while continuing traditions with my family. In the end, I get the best of both worlds.