Thanksgiving break is over and I’m back on campus. It was good to be home, but I think, for many students, there is significant stress in going home for the holidays.
Every Thanksgiving, American college students stream back to wherever they came from for a weekend of family time and overeating. In my case, I headed 45 minutes north, to the town where I was born and raised.
Even though I didn’t stray far to go to school, there’s more distance between me and my hometown than it would seem by looking at two points on a map. Although I’m geographically close, living on my own affords me a good amount of independence.
That’s why going back for Thanksgiving break, and the more extended periods between semesters, is a little nerve-wracking. I love my family, and I love being with them, but after a year or so on my own, my childhood bedroom seems smaller than it ever did when I was living in it.
Running my own life at school has robbed me of any tolerance for someone else’s rules or schedule. And now that I stopped my car insurance – why pay it for a car I don’t drive for two thirds of the year? – leaving the house is a gamble that depends on whether or not my brother feels generous enough to lend me his.
I know that complaining about such things makes me seem spoiled. (I am spoiled.) But I value my independence when I’m away from home. Why else do 18 year olds scramble out of their houses the second they graduate high school?
However, I’ve discovered two techniques to prevent my spoiled-ness from getting in the way of enjoying time at home.
For one, I remind myself of the things I like about my hometown. No, my hometown is not Boston, where my dorm room has a view of the Charles River and two world-class art museums are within walking distance. (Did I mention I’m spoiled?)
But my favorite restaurant is in my hometown, where the tin teapots are never empty, and huge bowls of pho are served along with delicate and crispy egg rolls. The beautiful red-brick library, with its rolling green lawn and stained glass windows, is my favorite spot to read and write.
Sure, this time around, getting to those places will be harder – I won’t have my own car. But they’re still there for me to return to.
The second technique to surviving breaks that I’ve cultivated is good old mindfulness. At home, I have to remind myself not be a jerk. When I’m at home, my mother hates it when I don’t put my clothes away right after they’re washed and dried. I let clothes pile up on my desk chair, like I do all the time in my dorm room—a lazy habit. Whenever she reminds me, a voice in my head says, Who is your mother to tell you to put those clothes away? Leave them on the chair forever!
It’s up to the larger, more rational part of my brain to shut that little voice up, be an adult. I’ve found that a good mantra for going home for break, and for life as a whole: Don’t be a selfish idiot.
Traveling home for Thanksgiving, or for anything, can be an adjustment after being away for so long. But as long as I took the best of my hometown into account and was mindful of my behavior to my family, I could enjoy it in full.
Now there’s only three weeks left until winter break, which lasts a month. I’ll remember to bring those techniques home then, too.