I just completed my freshman year at the University of Michigan. It was turbulent, to say the least. Not in the sense that scores of dramatic events kept happening to me, but that my emotions had never gone through such a tumultuous course before. Adjusting was difficult, to say the least. I go to a public university in a state other than my own. A school with 30,000 high-achieving students. Many people came to school with high school friends, extended family members, or roommates they had chosen. My friend group had spread out all over the country, or were in still in high school. I had never felt so fearless and afraid, so curious and dumb, so independent and lonely than I have this past year, with all of these emotions usually occurring daily. Although many good things happened to me during my freshman year, It took me until late march to really feel like I belonged at my university. So, needless to say, many of my favorite memories from the past year were when I left Ann Arbor for the comforts of home.
Through my entire first semester of college, I cursed over-zealous, younger me for being so excited to leave home. Throughout my senior spring, I, like most people heading to college, was an amorphous blob of uncontainable teen angst. Most of the parameters of my life: my parents, my school, even my friends, seemed more suffocating than comforting. I felt that everything I had lived with stifled my personal development, I thought everyone at home was either outgrowing me or had grown to hate me, and that everyone would be better off with me gone. And most of all, I thought there was nothing left for me in this small town, and that I wouldn’t miss it one bit when I was out for good. Of course, I was overdramatic and drastically wrong. In my final weeks, I had forgotten how good my high school experience actually was. I excelled in things I was passionate about, I managed my time, and, I had a wonderful support system of friends, family, and teachers.
Michigan’s summer break lasts from the beginning of May until the last week in August (GO BLUE.) The prospect of a four-month stay, back in the dead of winter, was my definition of paradise. Even lying in bed, watching Netflix, seemed infinitely more appealing in my bedroom at home than a dorm room. These sixteen weeks were a blank canvas of possibility and newfound appreciation, only slightly tarnished by not so glamorous summer jobs (two of mine involve working with children under the age of five) and awkward encounters with people from high school that I really did want to leave far behind. However, I didn’t anticipate the anxiety and dread that would overcome me about a far different matter: time.
Of course I knew that things wouldn’t be the same as they were when I was growing up. High school friends absorbed in their own lives, people running on different schedules, losing touch with those who had been my good friends, etc. But what fuels my anxiety now is the transience of it all. I know I’ll be returning to school in the fall, that I’ll visit home on breaks, then what? I’m one step closer to the real world,and that scares the shit out of me. Now that I think I won’t have the tools and diligence to be successful, but that circumstances will come and bite me in the ass. The job market is a shark tank, and a smidgen of intelligence and a decent work ethic is not a guarantee of success anymore. Not to mention the reality that as you get closer to full-blown adulthood, people stop caring as much about your feelings and your situation And this scares the shit out of me. I know exciting things are coming my way-the golden years, entering the professional world, fully determining the shape of my life, hell, I have three more years of college. However, I view the future like a ticking time bomb of my own creation- I’m going to be helpless when it arrives.
Our generation is absolutely engrossed with the concept of time itself. It’s passing, preserving it, running out of it. Because time, while unstoppable, always comes with implications. It never simply is. Time passing too quickly leads to nostalgia. Time passing too slowly leads to restlessness. Wasted time breeds anxiety, while scheduled time breeds a feeling of constraint. We remember important dates and anniversaries like they are sacred instructions. We set time limits and deadlines on our own lives. It never ends. Hometowns have the particular stigma of never changing- and this is appealing to many people my age. Even though they may be boring, the illusion of bringing back a time without uncertainty is appealing (at least to me, but I have a feeling that many others share this feeling. We’re in limbo with our identities, and home reminds us of a time where our identities, (or what we presumed them to be) were constant.
Bearing this in mind, how should we regard our hometowns? Visiting them certainly solves some problems and magnifies others. It leaves us in a horrible mess of emotions, a twisted tsunami of pride, anxiety, contentment, restlessness, and fear. However, I hope to find a medium, somewhere. I think it’ll be best if I appreciate my time in the place I call home, while reminding myself the bigger and better things are out there. Perhaps I’ll return to Long Island one day when I’m settled into adulthood, but for now, I’ll take it for what it is, nothing more, and never for granted.