When you live at home it’s like you, your family, your house, your neighbors, your friends– everything from your life growing up– moves on the same line. You don’t notice changes because you live through them. When you leave for college, you create your own line full of football games, long nights studying, lunches with friends, and calling home. But even though you call, you’re no longer moving forwards with your home, but parallel to it.
The lines converge when you return home and it can be jarring.
Parents always talk about how their kids come back different than when they left for college, but they have so many resources to teach them how to handle that return. And we can prepare for the big changes because they get talked about– like if your family moved to a new house, or one of your parents started a new job. Those are things that make life different for the people back home, but nobody talks about the mundane changes. Nothing prepares us for all the little things we missed while we were away. We spend so much of our time thinking about the future that we think our homes will always stay the same.
But our home lines continue moving while we’re away, and things do change. Even small changes may seem big now because you weren’t there to live through them. Maybe it’s a new kitchen table that feels weird to sit at because it’s not where you remember having family dinners. Your bedroom might smell like dust instead of your perfume. Your parents may have new hobbies that you never knew they were interested in. Or, if you’re like me, your younger sister will have started drinking coffee and you’ll wonder how she grew up so fast. All of the things seem so small that nobody thinks to mention them. Because to the people back home, those new things are just part of the natural changes in their lives. But those new things are what we have to prepare ourselves for.
The upside is that you have been changing just like your home. So, when you return you’ll have so many new stories to tell and listen to. You’ll get to tell your family all about the life you are creating and you’ll get to reconnect with theirs. You might be sitting at that new kitchen table when you do, but those conversations will start to make that house feel like home again. That process of returning, as jarring as it may be, is beautiful because you get to find a new place in your old life.
You see, whether this will be your first summer back since leaving for school, or if you’ve been home many times before, it’s going to feel different. It’s not a bad different– it’s still your home, a place that has grown as you have grown. You will just need time to settle back on to your old line. A line you will hope on and off for the rest of your life.