Although we’re led to believe that winter is a time of discontent and instances of depression and suicide rise as the holidays near, studies have disproved the assertion. As the promise of sleep, relaxation and home-cooked meals usher us through the end of the semester, however, it would behove us to remember that what actually can affect our mood is the changing of our environment, from the conceived liberation of college to the perceived confines of home.
Just as the experience of winter break can be relaxing, it can also be interminably stressful, as students re-adjust to parental rules, nauseating siblings and nagging neighbors. It’s like going from 80 mph to 20 mph and, combined with the monotony of not having class, deadlines or events to attend, it can be stressful. The sudden relinquishing of independence to an authority, in this case one’s parents, can be an almost humiliating experience for someone whose become accustomed to being their own boss.
Added to that basic pressure, unfortunately, is a more troubling and sensitive issue. Some of you, particularly freshmen, will return to your families a changed person, either in identity, habits or personality. While parents know that college is a growth experience, they may not be as understanding or accepting as you’d hope of the changes that you have undergone. As the Fresh Prince would also tell you, “Parents just don’t understand.”
Some families are more supportive of others. That’s the nature of the social climate blanketing our nation, where we profess a “family first” agenda, but often at the expense of ourselves. This fact is as true in national politics, where the daughters of a former vice president publicly feud over same sex marriage, as it is on “Glee,” where equally strange situations playout.
That being said, if the environment you’re returning to is patently unsafe and you genuinely feel that you’re in danger, I urge you to seek help.
While we can be thankful for families that don’t constantly question why you got that tattoo or if you’re sure you’re not just going through a phase, many of us, particularly within the conservative leaning state of Virginia, don’t have that luxury: Returning home means running away from yourself. It means stepping back from all the personal progress you’ve made in the last three months to maintain a false status quo that comforts everyone, except the one person that matters: yourself.
Take that step back, if you think it’s best. Continue the lie a little longer. Don’t force yourself into a situation you’re not ready for. Remember and talk to the people who do know and understand you, no matter how faint. They’re probably just as bored and frustrated as you are.
I’ve been at VCU for three years, and, every year, I’m impressed by the openness of the environment, the acceptance of differences and the readiness of people to understand without judging. While it’s not the most liberal environment (at no fault of the university), I’m willing to bet it’s more liberal and accommodating than where most students are returning to.
Going home shouldn’t be a traumatic experience and you shouldn’t be forced to be someone you’re not, even for your family, but the reality of the situation is that you might choose that path until you’re ready and that’s OK. Do whatever you need to do, but make sure you’re doing it for you.