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Archive for Monday, January 17, 2011

Go!

Double Take: College freshman feels “stuck” between past and present

January 17, 2011

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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.

— Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Ben Markley is a senior at Free State High School. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions abou

Comments

Escapee 3 years, 6 months ago

Writer, I have two daughters with similar tapes playing in their heads as they prepare to graduate from their respective colleges.

Please keep in mind that 'you are...exactly where you're supposed to be' right now.' Even though it feels like a limbo of sorts -- what you're experiencing is the process of the journey. Just because you graduate from college -- it doesn't mean we parents take you out to a high cliff and push you off and wish you to 'fly away'. This feeling, these feelings, you're having are just another stage of the journey. It's a rare bird that knows exactly what his/her destination is at this point. If you DO know...more power to ya! But it's rare. More common is the feeling that you wish someone would have given you a map at graduation rather than a diploma!

Truth is, it is time to try a few new things. Try to apply your major...but it's not always fitting. And if it isn't for you -- don't look at your college years as wasted time/money. We send you to college (if you are lucky enough to be able to go) to have a transitional period of growth. To obtain some skills (hopefully pertinent to some interests you have), but mostly to grow up a little. Gain some independence. Exercise your decision making skills. Make new friends without the 'baggage' of kindergarten stories. And try those wings...just a little bit.

'Home' for most of us -- is where we feel most comfortable. That may or may not be where your parents/family also reside. But don't be so hard on yourself. I know for my own kids...I love having them around. But there's usually a mutual feeling that 1. they no longer want to be 'kids' in the house and told when to 'clean up your room', or 'do your laundry', or 'be home by midnight'; and 2. as parents, we no longer want to have 'kids' in the house that can't take care of themselves, and their own belongings (ie. cars, bills, clothing, appointments, etc.) and 3. while we love one another mutually, the 'caretaking' part of our relationship is pretty much over. There will always be compassion and nurturing for one another in an 'as needed' capacity -- but the 24/7 stuff should pretty much be over by now.

As for finding the right place to 'land' upon graduation...I think you simply must 'go with the flow'. Check out lots of things. Try lots of things. And don't have such high expectations of yourself that if you don't find exactly what you want right away...that this may be a 'goal' for you to work toward...but that it isn't to be had right away.

Wear a smile. Open your mind. And listen lots. The world seems like a big place. But I guarantee you...it becomes smaller every day.....

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