Editor’s note: The Lawrence Journal-World’s long-running, popular “Double Take” column will now appear in Monday’s in the Go! section.
Dear Dr. Wes and Ben:
This is my first college break, and “home” just doesn’t feel like the same place that I left. I think this is because I have changed while everything, including my friends and family, has remained relatively the same. Even the word “home” is not easily defined for me anymore. While I’m here I find myself missing college and the comfort that my new space brings me. Yet, I still can’t give up the idea that my real home is back in Kansas, that college is just four years. Somehow that makes it hard to leave, even as I’m looking forward to going back to school. I feel as if I am leaving everything behind for a new, expanded outlook on life with new friends and connections.
Ben: Well, you kind of are leaving everything behind and facing all kinds of questions that come with that. What if home feels totally alien on your next visit? What if Kansas lies at the end of the road, regardless? Or what if something bigger and scarier is waiting for you?
“What if” is a pretty strong precursor. Used wrongly, it haunts our past and blurs our future. It gives substance to our regrets and doubts, allowing them to paint all kinds of horrible pictures of squandered opportunities and tragic destinies. In this regard, it’s a worthless phrase.
Used rightly, it is stamina. What if there really is a better home for you out there? If Kansas is your home, what if your time away is equipping you to make a better home here?
If you’re looking to the future, fear is a dirty lens. Wipe it clean and take another look.
Wes: Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas I see college students home on break, who I’ve seen formerly as high school students. We usually just make the appointments a few months in advance and there’s never any lack of things to discuss when they arrive. Chief on that list for freshman is the sort of thing you’re describing. Right now you’re neither here nor there, but on a bridge to somewhere you can’t really imagine yet. So, just as Ben suggests, be in the moment. Enjoy both the sorrow of loss and the joy of discovery. No one can predict where you’ll end up, but only that you’ll be there.
A more specific bit of advice I’ll offer is this: make no decisions about next fall until after March. Far too many college students go off the college, feel homesick, come home for the holidays and then make a secret plan to return to Lawrence for their sophomore year. That’s much too easy with so many colleges within driving distance. Once that idea sets in, perseverance seems to be pushed out. Instead, get back to school, wait until March or April and by then I predict you’ll be far enough across the bridge as to be less tempted to run back this way.
Remember the point of growing up is to keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean you have to ignore the past. It must means you don’t want to get stuck there.
Next week: Sexting. It’s worse than you think.