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Thursday, July 11, 2024

Growth hurts

Homesickness is part of the process 

 

By MOLLY THOMPSON — mmtthompson@ucdavis.edu 

 

It’s the Saturday night before winter quarter starts. It’s been raining all day, and I just got dropped off back at my dorm after winter break. My roommates don’t get back until tomorrow — I’m all alone. 

There’s an inevitable moment that every college freshman must encounter when an unshakable, hollow ache starts to really set in. The novelty of being in college has worn off, it’s cold and dark all the time, classes get overwhelming and the idea of being at home — wrapped up in your favorite blanket, surrounded by your family, eating mom’s home cooking — starts to sound nice. Really nice. Like maybe I wouldn’t ever leave. Maybe I’d rather be anywhere but here. Mom, can you come pick me up? I’m not having fun anymore. 

It hurts to rip off a scab — the skin underneath is tender. It’s no longer being protected, and it still needs time to finish healing and toughen a little. When you move away from home, you’re leaving — if you’re lucky — the safety net you’ve had for your whole life. Of course, it’s exciting, the whole world just opened up in front of you! But at the same time, the whole world just opened up in front of you. Oh god.  

College is like adulthood with training wheels. We have to feed ourselves and tuck ourselves into bed and put ourselves by the window so we make sure we get enough sunlight, but we might still call Dad when our bike locks rust shut or we need money for groceries or to read through the lease before we sign it. Yes, we have help, but we’re still learning how to ride this metaphorical bike; we’re not in the backseat of our parents’ car anymore. 

It’s inevitable: spreading your own set of wings. Learning to fly solo comes with marvels but it also comes with growing pains. Homesickness is a symptom of growth. It’s a sign of detachment from childhood, no wonder it’s going to hurt a little sometimes. Though, in the moments when it feels particularly sore, it’s difficult to see the silver lining. It feels like the world is so vast and dark and I’m merely an iota in one tiny cell of the honeycomb that is my dorm building. I won’t even try to conceptualize myself in a scope of the whole world — it’s far too overwhelming. I’m a teeny little fish in a massive, expansive pond and I can’t shake the feeling. 

And yet, the sun comes up and my roommates come back and I’m pretty sure everything’s gonna be okay. It ebbs and it flows — there are nights when it’s all-consuming, and there are days when it doesn’t even exist. People say to call home, to keep familiar and comforting objects around you, to find people that you love who will keep you company, as if those things are more than an ice pack that’ll numb the injury without actually healing it. 

The truth is that homesickness is a part of life that we all have to face. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t call my sister on a Sunday afternoon, keep the quilt my grandmother made on my bed or knock on my next-dorm neighbor’s door just for a Spindrift and a little camaraderie — an ice pack might not heal an injury but it sure can take away the sting. 

The first quarter of freshman year is so bright and shiny, that it’s almost too exciting for the dauntingness to set in. Going back to school for winter quarter doesn’t have the same allure that your first quarter did. So when you get back to your dorm, you start to miss eating waffles at your kitchen table and realize you took sleeping in your childhood bed for granted. Instead of driving your own car to go see your high school friends, you have to walk through the wind and rain to your geology lecture. Yeah, home sounds pretty good right about now.  

But time heals all wounds. Growing pains subside, soreness fades and the new skin under the scab is soon indistinguishable. A fever sucks but it heals an infection; homesickness is tough but it means you’re growing up. You’re coming into yourself, and it’s hard — you should be proud. Sometimes you pull a muscle trying to get your sea legs, it’s a part of learning and growth. 

 

Written by Molly Thompson — mmtthompson@ucdavis.edu  

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