The end of freshman year came in such a flurry that between finals, packing and goodbyes I had little time to think of what my summer would entail. My final week was spent bullying my brain into retaining a semester’s worth of information and frantically attempting to condense my jam-packed room into boxes. But as I turned in my last final, I was struck with the reality that I was leaving BC for more than just a week. Instead, I was leaving for four whole months. That would mean four whole months without college friends, Eagle’s Nest and the Million Dollar Stairs. Four whole months without Mod parties, Uber rides and BC sports. Four whole months without Boston, Late Night and Gasson. While I was originally excited by the prospect of returning home, apprehension overwhelmed me as I realized the trade off this vacation required. How was I supposed to survive four whole months without all my new found favorite things?
This anxiety intensified as I arrived home. The drive felt like a regression back in time and with each familiar sight I felt stifled rather than comforted. Nothing short of panic betook me as I pulled into my driveway; I realized I was basically reentering my childhood for four whole months. Don’t’ get me wrong, I had a wonderful childhood in a small town. But after eighteen summers of pond swimming, bonfires, ice cream excursions and movie nights, I felt less like I was entering a town and more like I was entering a prison. To me, returning home symbolized a full-on identity crisis. I could either be my adult college self who tackled classes, the track team and a social life or I could revert back to my days of high school, which originally seemed mundane, but now appeared oppressive.
Over the first month this panic faded slowly into an overwhelming feeling of monotony. Yet, with each day I began to resent being home more. The freedom, friends and fun I had in college were gone. And this feeling of loss made me hesitant to engross myself back into my hometown life. I moped and mourned my freshman year as if a close friend had died; I looked at the year’s pictures, spoke only of the year’s memories and disregarded the reality that I was passing each day more unhappy than the one before. As time progressed this sulking turned toward isolation. My refusal to re-immerse myself back into my hometown and childhood friends was making me miserable.
This destructive behavior transfigured as I watched this year’s seniors graduate and observed childhood friends celebrate their emotional ending. Some chose to do so with hugs, others with tears, but most with fervent promises to remain friends forever. It dawned on me that just a year before it had been me making those very promises to my amazing hometown friends. I began to understand that these people and this town played a role in my college experience that I unknowingly took for granted. This “new college me” was dependent on my childhood here. My academic motivation came from my parents’ high standards, my athletic skill from youth coaches and gym teachers and, most of all, my love of fun came from the friends who kept me entertained for my eighteen years. Not only are these traits still a part of my college identity, but they’re also some of the reasons I was originally accepted into BC. This sudden awareness shifted my entire view on being home. While my return originally signified a loss of my college identity, I instead began to view it as coming full circle. Here, I had the opportunity to celebrate my matured college self with the very people who originally helped me find my way to BC.
And with that clarity, four whole months passed pretty quickly. What I had initially found stifling I now took comfort in. The familiarity of people and places made me feel at home rather than imprisoned. The absence of many of my favorite BC things made me appreciate aspects of home much more. This summer meant four whole months of old friends, home-cooked meals and long car rides. Four whole months of real ice cream, pond swimming and pets. Most of all four whole months of family, familiarity and quite a bit of fun.
Move-in day once stood as an arbitrary date four whole months away, but now looms in the coming days. The excitement of football season, of actual parties and even of class, is enough to keep me up at night. But these thrilling thoughts are peppered with feelings of nostalgia over leaving this small town for a second time. Though it took some getting used to, this summer at home provided an opportunity for growth rather than regression. I learned to view my past as a springboard catapulting me into my future rather than an anchor pulling me back to my youth. And with that my childhood identity and my college reality were finally united.
So as I leave these comforting hometown sights in the rear view mirror and head for BC, it’s with a lot of excitement for what lies ahead, a little nostalgia for what I’m leaving behind, but most of all a more complete version of myself.