Homesickness in college

Marian Holmes is a creative nonfiction author and graphic artist who slices deli meats to make ends meet. She has work in several publications, including Great Lake Review, and OUTspoken Magazine, and is currently working on a series of creative nonfiction essays entitled, Omissions. When she’s not scribbling on scraps of paper, she can be found continuing to hone her cooking skills and her needlepoint stitches. You can learn even more about her at www.marianholmes.com.

Like those vacations which are too short to warrant putting your clothes in the provided dresser, I found myself, a month and a half after graduating, continuing to live out of the duffle bags I had packed back in May. Reestablishing myself in my parents’ house was an awkward and arduous process; nowhere felt like home anymore, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d be leaving for Oswego again come August.

I’m coming up on a year out of college now, and I just unpacked the last of my earrings; I’ve finally found the balance in moving back home, and so, if you’re struggling, I hope that these tips will help your transition go as smoothly as possible:

1) Be prepared for homesickness to hit, at home. Home is no longer a physical place but a concept, and you’ll find yourself sitting in the bedroom/living room/kitchen/etcetera that you’ve had memorized since you were five, pining for an alternate location. You probably love your parents, your siblings too, and this feeling does nothing to negate this fact: your family has, very simply, grown. Homesickness will hit when you walk to the bedroom next door out of habit to share a joke, only to find your brother instead of your best friend. It will hit when you open the wrong cabinet in your kitchen while looking for sugar, because in your apartment it was kept right above the sink. It will hit when you put in the wrong zip code at the gas pump, when Amazon tries to ship your new book to your old apartment, and especially when something goes wrong in your life and you just wish you were back in school, surrounded by the people who pulled you through the last four years. Skype will become your new best friend, as will roadtrips, and you will eventually learn not to make tacos any more because your roommates are no longer there for “family dinner.”

2) You are now responsible for filling your own social calendar. One of the best, and most taken for granted, aspects of college is that there is literally always something to do. College brought with it my first hockey game, my first roller derby match, and, of course, my first ABC party. After the excitement of being back home wares thin, you are going to find yourself bored, but worse even so, you’re going to find yourself lonely. If your town is anything like mine, the bars are full of middle-aged parents, the bowling alleys are full of preteens, and you spent the majority of your high school years in basements because there was nowhere better to go. At first, you’re going to feel sixteen again, except now, everyone is working — some even on the weekends! Don’t let your social calendar die just because there aren’t bulletin boards bursting with activities ten feet in any direction; there is plenty to do, I promise! If you were in a student organization research which groups exist near your house that focus on similar topics; go to a meeting, even if you have to go alone. Take up a new hobby: meditation, baking, knitting. Look through your town’s recreational pamphlets (yes, these exist), they’re like club directories for adults, and make an account on Meetup. Staying busy will help counteract the homesickness from numero uno on this list.

3) Unpack. This may seem obvious, but most of my friends had just as much trouble with this step as I did. Our lives remained in living-arrangement limbo for months; you have to accept that school is over. Sort through your clothing and get rid of anything that you can’t get away with now that college is done: neon lace tank tops, I’m looking at you! Bring it to a consignment shop and use the money you get in return to buy yourself a great interview piece… trust me. If you are able, change something major in your room back home to allow it to make the transition visually with you. Painting my room made a much more significant difference then I would have ever believed. Graduating is a form of “moving on”, but you will be much better off if you can start phrasing it as “moving forward” instead.

4) Accept that things have changed. Accept that you have changed. It is perfectly ok to not have things return to how they were before you went away to school. In fact, they really shouldn’t be able to. You’re a different person now. Change happens slowly, and in small increments, so that we do not notice it as it happens, but when we turn around four years later the difference is blaring. Your best friend from high school may move back home too, but you two just can’t seem to recreate the connection you once had. This is ok. Maybe you’ll run into an acquaintance from your graduating class at the supermarket and suddenly the two of you are meeting for coffee weekly. This is ok. You’re life doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, go back to exactly how it was before. Communication is key: with your parents, with your friends, and with yourself. If something doesn’t feel right for/to you, work to change it, calmly and effectively. Work on keeping your mind open, and allow the new adventures to find you, just as you did when you moved into your dorm room four years earlier. This is an incredible time in your life! Enjoy it, and take advantage of the fact that you may not be paying rent for the time being!

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