As a new college student, this is my first winter break coming home for the holidays, seeing my family for the first time in a while, reconnecting with my old friends, returning to my church, and remembering how normal my hometown used to feel. Since Christmas and New Year's Eve are both over and I'm in that weird place that is the first week of the year--all the high schools are back in session, my parents have gone back to work, and most of my friends are leaving to head back to school--it has begun to dawn on me how odd this season of life truly feels.
1. Your home is not your "home."
And that's ok. I believe that college is useful for teenagers. It helps us to grow in independence and become more like adults, it allows us to select our own friends out of a huge pool of people, and it allows us to figure out who we really are (that sounds cliché, but that has really happened in the past four months I have been in school). However, along with all this great growth and change comes distance--and I don't just mean physical distance-- from your previous home. As I sit in our local coffee shop where I spent countless afternoons throughout my junior and senior years of high school, I constantly think I see people I know, but they turn out to be new faces who have come to live in my hometown, and I have no idea who they are.
My house felt almost like a hotel the first time I returned home. I regretfully left my friends for break, drove home, walked into a recently redone bathroom, and I felt out of place. Don't get me wrong, my bathroom needed to be redone: but there's something about seeing the process happen that makes the room feel a little more like a remodeling and a little less like a new house altogether.
My bed at home is a little less comfortable than my bed in my dorm, I'm living out of a suitcase because I don't want to unpack in order to save myself some time when I have to go back to school, and I feel as if I am not truly home.
2. Your friends are not as close.
To seniors in high school this year: your friends will drift away from you unless you go to college with them (and even then I don't know what happens because college is a time of such change). Even if you went to a small high school, those people who you've been around for ten or more years will drift. But, you know what? That, too, is ok. That doesn't mean that you don't like them any more or that they don't like you any more. That doesn't mean that you can't still have fun with them. It just means that now you have different friends who live with you, and your old friends are in the same boat. Catching up is something that is difficult because in order for me to rehash certain stories of stupid things my college friends and I have done (pictured below), my high school friends would have to know who my college friends are, know the context, know the place. And that's just not the case.
I've found that it just takes a little more time to rekindle that friendship. It takes a little more time that you'd like for you and your friends to get used to the changes you've both undergone. It's like you're becoming friends again. In a way, I think that's healthy because a lot of times, friends who have been friends for years forget that people change. They neglect to continue getting to know that person they think they know better than anyone, and they stick that person with the same labels they were stuck with in middle school.
The change experienced in college as well as the distance put between old friends are all healthy, normal things, and they should be embraced. Who knows? You may even become better friends after re-getting to know your old friends.
3. You miss never being alone.
I used to be an introvert, and I used to need a significant amount of alone time during the day so I didn't get overwhelmed socially. However, now I'm an extrovert, and being alone--even when I'm studying--is hard. Being alone brings more distraction than being around my friends. When it was still the Christmas/New Year's season, my family was around every day, and I had things to do. However, after January third, my brother was back in school, my parents were back at work, and I had spent as much at our local coffee shop as I could bear.
To be frank, I've been bored. I don't have anything to do during the day because I have no schoolwork, the house can only be so clean, and only so much food can be cooked before it becomes wasteful. For example, today I made two quiches, a pot of soup, and a cup of coffee (with steamed milk and everything!!!), and I cleaned up after myself for the most part. Whether those two quiches will be eaten before they go bad is another story.
In short, I miss being around people all the time. I miss being able to hang out with someone for free! I miss being able to walk off of my hall and talk to my best friends. There is nothing wrong with a little solitude here and there, but at one point this girl needs to be submerged in society.
4. You're afraid the next semester may not be the same as the first.
On the day that we left for winter break, I was feeling a little down. I told my roommate that I was a little sad to be leaving all our friends, and then I realized that the upside to that situation is that I actually HAVE friends close enough to be so sad to leave them. I spent the day saying goodbye to people, wishing them a merry Christmas, and I hugged my best friends before they left me to take my last exam. My roommate and I were supposed to leave at 5:00PM, and we were ready by then, but we lingered a little longer in our lobby and made the semester last a little longer.
When we were alone, my roommate told me she was afraid next semester may not be the same as this one and we may be disappointed. Yes, this semester was amazing--it was the best four months of my life--but it can still get better, right? I went into the break thinking that, and slowly but surely, the doubt began to creep in. I began to think that maybe next semester will be disappointing. Maybe my reunions with all my friends will not be as beautiful as I think they will be. Maybe I won't love my classes as much as I think I will. Maybe I'm not actually as close to these people as I thought and the distance will hurt our relationships rather than help them.
But that's just not true.
I keep having to tell myself that next semester will be as amazing as the first. Just because the new has worn off doesn't mean that I'm doomed to boredom for the rest of my four years.
5. You begin to really feel like an adult.
I drove myself and two friends to a dressy New Year's Eve party in Atlanta, and we all survived. I felt very adult-like when I walked into the venue wearing a cocktail dress, hung up my coat, scarf, and bag, danced until 12:30AM, then drove home.
I also opened my own bank account separate from my parents' yesterday, and I recently discovered that I'll be paying my own credit card bill. Adulthood is hitting me like a freight train. Strangely, though, I love it. I love being independent. Coming home and having to make plans to pack, drive back to school, and go to the grocery store to buy food makes me feel like I'm 28 instead of 18. That may seem dramatic, and I know people have experienced varying levels of independence before college (probably some very different from my experience), but if I've gleaned anything from going through a semester in college and then transitioning back to essentially high school, it's that once adulthood starts it's hard to stop it. I feel the need to budget all my spendings, even if it's just money I set aside to spend on myself. I feel the need to save my precious Amazon gift cards for things I actually need rather than frivolous things I'll use twice and then forget about. I feel the need to split my saving and spending sixty-forty rather than fifty-fifty.
My parents no longer ask me to text them when I get across town, and they no longer uphold my curfew.
I cooked my own lunch from scratch, and I washed all my dishes.
I played with my dog so he wouldn't destroy everything we own (though it didn't really work).
I can honestly say that coming home for winter break was an experience that I didn't think would be as eye-opening as it was, but I cannot wait to go back to school. This may be the only time in my entire life that I have wished that school would start back the day after New Year's, but I wouldn't trade that feeling for the world.