When I first thought about reverting back to my high school self, I instantly recalled the person that I used to be. I was shy, very unsure of myself, and I needed my college experience to break me out of my shell. But when we reach winter break and find ourselves getting overwhelmed with holiday stress as we head back to our hometowns for the holidays, many of us reconnect with our former high school selves and all the friends and memories that came with it.
Going home for the holidays can be strange, because you’re returning to a place that is filled with old emotions and experiences. While you may or may not have changed that much since your time in high school, you might unconsciously revert back to your pre-college self pretty quickly. This isn’t a rare phenomenon. Saturday Night Live‘s “Back Home Ballers” sketch which touches on this subject has gotten over 12 million views on YouTube with thousands of comments relating personal experiences to the idea of letting your parents take care of you like they did when you were a child. So, it’s common — but is it cause for concern?
Going home for winter break from college does not instantly make you into your old self again, but you might notice a personality shift from your older, wiser college self. According to licensed marriage and family therapist Katie Ziskind, owner of Wisdom Within Counseling, you shouldn’t necessarily fear it.
Ziskind argues not that students simply revert straight back to their high school personalities after returning home from college, but instead that they’re likely to undergo a general change in personality when faced with the new reality of life at home. “For a college student, home life may not be all that great,” she tells Her Campus. She mentions elements including sibling relationships or new behavior from parents that can change after students go away for college and are no longer living under the same roof. These changes can result in “anxiety, pressure, and frustration, which can all lead to a personality change when back at home,” she says.
Maybe your family does not look exactly the same as it did when you graduated high school. Right after I graduated high school, my parents began filing papers for their divorce, and I definitely was not feeling like my normal self at that first Thanksgiving. Maybe one of your siblings just moved away from home and you don’t feel completely satisfied being at home without them. Whatever it may be, you encounter different interactions and behaviors at home that you don’t typically face in college, so it’s normal to experience a shift in personality or emotion.
You encounter different interactions and behaviors at home that you don’t typically face in college, so it’s normal to experience a shift in personality or emotion.
This personality reversion doesn’t have to be negative, however, according to a college student. Vera, 21, and a junior at UMass Amherst, associates going home with nostalgia and feeling like she gets to relive old parts of her childhood. She tells Her Campus that she romanticizes old behaviors and experiences when she’s home for the holidays, like “sleeping in my childhood bedroom, living with my parents, and seeing hometown friends.” Her trip home is a way to escape from the fast-paced lifestyle of college. We see this kind of behavior throughout Gen Z, too. Our fascination with “main character moments” and romanticizing our past makes these personality changes much more predictable.
“Dealing with friends and living on your own can feel overwhelming, and going home for a break is physically and emotionally getting away from all of that stress,” Vera says. After being immersed in a new and challenging environment, she adds that it can be comforting to see old friends and indulge in old habits, like sharing stories or reliving old inside jokes, because you miss your life before college.
When asked if she thought that college students are pressured into creating a new personality or identity for themselves when they get to school, Vera says, “I think that college students are put into such a new place that some parts of them are going to change whether they plan on it or not.” She adds, “The transition from high school to college is a big one for most people … I don’t think students are forced or pressured to create new personalities or identities, but rather they are given the opportunity to be truer to themselves and explore different experiences and people they didn’t have the chance to before.”
Gen Z’s fascination with “main character moments” and romanticizing our past makes these personality changes much more predictable.
Going home for the holidays during my first two years of college felt like a getaway from the stress of college. I looked forward to being around familiar places and people, and being able to sleep in my own bed felt like a luxury. But during my last two years of college, I started growing more comfortable with my “college self” and I had friends and relationships at school that became harder to leave for a long weekend or a semester break. When I would get home, I would feel a shift in personality and behavior because I was missing something that I was used to experiencing every day. It wasn’t necessarily a bad shift, but enough of a shift that going back to school to see my friends was so exciting.
My time in college was the first moment I realized that we have multiple versions of ourselves as we grow older. Who we were in high school is not the same as who we are in college, but the newer versions of ourselves are always growing to be better. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the high school version of ourselves, so when you go home for your semester break, enjoy the feelings that come up when you think of old memories.
Katie Ziskind, Marriage & Family Therapist