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Home for the Holidays: How to Face the Fear of Seeing Peers in Public

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bowling Green chapter.

As finals begin, there is one thing on my mind: winter break. As a first-semester freshman, I’m growing more and more excited about break being a month-long instead of the lousy two weeks we got in high school. However, with more time home comes more time being home… and being home means potentially seeing old friends from high school in public.

Not that running into old friends is inherently a bad thing, (it could rekindle the friendship, which is hypothetically awesome) but it comes with a load of anxiety. Do I smile? Wave? Ask how they’re doing? Ask if they’re still with Zach from 3rd-period Biology?

With so many options of how to approach this hypothetical social scenario, I have found myself feeling unnecessarily frozen when it came to seeing people I used to talk to in public. Why is there that weird tone of judgment? Do I look different from graduation? Better? Worse?! Readers of HerCampus, I am here to tell you that everything is okay.

In situations like that, I’ve found myself literally avoiding the thought or potential of running into people I don’t really want to see. In preparing myself for this holiday season, I have one recurring thought: read the room. If it’s a quick smile or wave at the grocery store, that’s perfectly fine. You do not have to try to rekindle anything from the past, especially if it was bad then. Sometimes it’s better to smile, nod, and walk away. There’s nothing you need to know that they wouldn’t post on their Snapchat stories anyway.

However, I don’t want to discourage you from reaching out to hometown friends. After all, remember you have memories and shared experiences that only a certain amount of people from your graduating class have. That quick smile or wave at the grocery store could inspire conversation, and sometimes it’s good to let it!

I’m someone that often has difficulty knowing what to do in unexpected scenarios. So, my friends, as per my “read the room” agenda, here are some quick tips on how to handle that holiday anxiety.

  • Smile and nod. While I may not have to explain this one, this is our general first reaction to recognizing someone we know in public. Depending on the environment, circumstances, and your connection to the person, this may be all you have to do!
  • Leave room for conversation. If the reunion continues into conversation, keep it light at first. Remember that it’s been some time and that a lot can change. Be patient and only use basic information you know. It’s good to ask general, “How are you?” and “How are you doing?” questions. I would personally avoid anything too heavy, especially if your relationship to the person has faltered or been iffy in the past.
  • Remember that people can change. However, sometimes they don’t. HerCampus readers, I warn against being too nice. If you stay general, people will open up and begin to reveal information about their current lives. This is a blessing and curse, as it could introduce new similar interests or could bore you to death. Remember to “read the room.”

I wish you all the best of luck returning home for the holiday season. Good luck with all of your finals, have safe travels, and have a fantastic break! You’ve earned it.

Erin Anderson

Bowling Green '25

Erin is a Junior at Bowling Green State University, where she is majoring in Adolescent/Young Adult Education (Integrated Language Arts). Alongside being Senior Editor for the group, she loves to write about astrology, self-love, spirituality, and mental health.