Visiting Home for the First Time

As Thanksgiving approaches, many college students will be visiting home for the first time since going to college. This can be very exciting, but also stress-inducing. College is a transformative time, and so much has changed in the two/three months since leaving home, both for me and my friends. Even my parents have adjusted to a new routine without me in the house. While Thanksgiving can be a nice weekend spent with family and friends, don’t feel bad if it also comes with some apprehension or anxiety.


Last year, I moved away from home for the first time, travelling from California to live on-campus at Seattle University. In mid-October, I flew home for a weekend to spend time with my mom and my golden retriever, Leo. When I first visited home, I was struck by all the physical differences; new freeway signs, a new UCLA extension in my neighbourhood, and other small changes made my home feel unfamiliar. Walking my dog around the block, I felt like I was experiencing the same block I’d walked countless times in high school in an entirely new way. This felt odd but mostly harmless, and I appreciated the warm, sunny autumn of Los Angeles in a way I never could after being in cold, overcast Seattle.


Then I got to catch up with my parents. My dad was visiting family at the time, so it was just my mom and me. Seeing her face to face felt great and more emotional than I expected. My mom and I are definitely close, but I have always kept my emotions close to myself, and being a naturally reserved person, I don’t typically reach out to my mom in college for emotional support. We’re both busy people, and we spend our time on the phone filling each other in on our schedules, friends and family. Yet while I was home, I found myself paradoxically closer and more distant from my mom than ever before. She knew much less of my everyday life compared to when I was in the house, but since we are both adults I felt that our conversations became much more vulnerable, emotional, and meaningful.


Finding the balance between things I tell my mom and things I keep to myself has also been a challenge. My mom has been a strong positive influence on my life, but I also treasure my growth in Seattle as an independent person who can make decisions without worrying about my parents’ approval.  Being able to keep projects and lifestyle changes close to my heart until I am ready to share them has been incredibly special. But I also worry that, without seeing the everyday small changes that have built up over my time in college, they might think I’ve become a completely different person. I try to remind myself that they also remember growing up and how this period of life is one of great transformation and change.

The most difficult thing for me about returning home was seeing old friends. Like myself, my friends have gone through months of transformation. Sometimes, this makes us feel closer as we appreciate how we can still get along and catch up. But sometimes, people go down different paths, and it just isn’t beneficial to remain friends. I think one of the hardest, yet most valuable lessons about friendship I have learned from revisiting old friends is that some friendships are worth cultivating and can last past the halls of high school, but many friendships have most likely run their course. People change, and for better or worse, and the best thing to do with friendships like this is to give thanks for the happiness they have given you, and respectfully move on. This doesn’t mean you have to cut people off, but you are allowed to slowly distance yourselves from people you don’t want to put your energy into.


Even in my sophomore year of college, I continue to learn this lesson and feel these difficult emotions. When you have a long history with people, it can seem like you have to do your best to preserve the relationships as though you were still in high school. Whether it’s with your environment, family, or friends, not allowing for the inevitable changes to these relationships will only prolong your growing pains. From personal experience, every change I have mentioned above (and others) has made me cry, laugh, and feel alienated from my understanding of “home”. Instead of resisting this change, being able to sit with the discomfort of a strange situation and accept it as weird as it is, has strengthened my ability to adapt and change. I am grateful for the privilege to go out of state for college and define my own home, an imperfect, ever-changing mixture of past and present.