Can you go home again?

Laura Christopher

It’s the summer after your senior year of high school. You’re done with primping for prom, breezing through finals and crying at graduation. You spent the summer with the friends who you have grown to see as your family, the friends you can’t imagine life without. You have been though everything you thought there was to go through with them and because of that, they know you better than anyone. All the parties, all the football games, all the endless school days, all the high school drama, and somehow you came out together as the best of friends. In a world of AIM and cell phones, college can’t interfere with that, right? You wonder about that as you pack up your stuff for college.

As the day when you must leave for freshman orientation looms closer you don’t know how you will be able to leave your town, your home, your friends, and everything that is familiar to you. You’re excited and anxious; and yet, there is that one part of you that is somewhat sad. College is a new beginning, but a beginning that comes from an end of the world you have come to know and love.

Of course, you leave for college anyway after nights of tearful goodbyes with your teenage friends, where the goodbyes feel like forever and after lingering hugs from your parents outside your new home, the dorm room.

Well, life goes on. You go to classes, meet people, write papers, and go to parties. You have more freedom than you have ever thought you could have. No curfews or asking parental permission because they are miles away. And it feels like you’ve known your new friends forever. You can’t remember what you did without them. They are the ones you rush to when you have really great news, they are the shoulders you cry on, and they become the ones who know you better than anyone else. Sure, you miss your friends from home. but they made new friends, too. They have new memories without you and you have new memories without them.

So what happens when you go home for break? Is it the same as when you were something between a high school graduate and a college student?

“Going home the first time after college made me realize what was important … who was important,” said junior Jen Gondek. “Things change. They aren’t the people you left and you can’t decide what changed, you or them.”

It is undeniable that you change in college. You are on the way to becoming whom you hope to be and whom you will actually become.

And maybe your friends from home can never know you as well as your college friends, who live with you through that change. It’s hard for the friends who grew up with you to accept that change, just as it’s hard for you to accept the changes in them.

Your parents also have a hard time with acceptance. Acceptance that for nine months out of the year, you have total independence and they are not aware of everything you do. So inevitably, when you come home for breaks they expect you to be the kid you were in high school. “When I first came home from college, I was so used to staying out whenever I wanted, and well, my parents weren’t. They were used to the high school me,” remembered sophomore Stephanie Melley. Not everyone felt as though their home life changed after going to college. “I’ve felt that even though my friends and I have been spread out for the last three years, nothing has changed for the most part,” said junior Brian Bennett. “Just separated for awhile. They are such good friends that time and separation doesn’t matter.”

Maya Angelou once said, “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home.” That first trip home after being away for so long is always bittersweet. Perhaps, there is an indefinable change between the hopeful you that leaves your friends and family to go away to school and the somewhat grown-up college student who returns. And perhaps, on that first break, at that party with all your friends from high school, something in you knows it. Knows that you can never go back to the way things were, and that it’s okay. Because as different as things may be, there is something unexplainable about those friends who you grew up with that causes them to stay with you in your heart.