The entrance into my hometown welcomes me with a sight that never gets old. I drive across a two mile long bridge and look to my left and right to see the expansive lake surrounded by mountains under cloudy skies. As I drive through the heart of my small town, feelings of nostalgia come flooding back. I’m hit with the realization that this is like a different world, away from the life in Boise that I’ve adjusted to — and fell in love with.
When I walk through the door of my house, my parents greet me warmly. My little brother gives me a half-hearted, “Sup,” and continues watching TV. When I go to my room, I find boxes situated along the gray walls, which lack decor. The room I grew up in doesn’t really feel like my room anymore. It kind of feels like I’m a guest in my own home.
Going back for break is a much needed breath of fresh air away from school, but it also comes with an unspoken tension floating in the air of the household. I’ve been away at college and have gained independence, I’ve chosen my lifestyle, but still have to abide by my parents’ rules being under their roof again.
The beauty of the stage of life I’m in is that I get to decide the kind of person I want to be, independent from my family, and experience personal growth in a new environment. My awareness of this phase in my life was amplified when I visited home for the first time after moving.
I never thought I would be excited to move out. I was a very fearful person and worried I wouldn’t be capable of doing things and making decisions without talking to my parents first. When it came time to say goodbye to my parents and move into my apartment in Boise, life fell into place and I felt secure in my social life and self sufficiency.
Making new connections had the biggest impact on me during that first year. This started even before I attended Boise State. My senior year of high school, I visited Boise over spring break with my mom and she suggested I check out a college ministry she heard about so I could meet other Christians — like myself. She dropped me off at a church on Euclid St. and drove away. As I walked in, I thought I would be intimidated by the college students I’d never met since I was still a high schooler, but, instead, I was met with the smiling faces of the Cru staff, and they introduced me to several students who took the time to get to know me. I felt welcomed and had wholesome conversations about faith and life with people who I could tell had genuine hearts. That’s when I knew, “Yep, these are my kind of people.” I found a community within the student ministry Cru and met genuine people who became my closest friends. I made it my goal to go to as many events and say “yes” to as many outings as I could so I wouldn’t miss out on an opportunity to try new things, connect with others, see new places, and just have fun.
During high school, I was overwhelmed with commitments. I had dance and lacrosse practices several days a week, ran my school’s newspaper, volunteered at an after school program for kids, volunteered for National Honor Society, attended youth groups, and worked a few jobs on top of keeping a 4.0 GPA in school. I was used to my schedule being packed every week and rarely changing, but I was ready for a break from it all and to create a lifestyle with my ideal structure and routine. That much freedom also felt somewhat daunting, but I ended up loving being able to decide how to spend my time in college, experiencing new things, being intentional in my friendships, and focusing on school instead of work. The idea of independence that scared me once, ended up being what made me thrive.
The day after I got back to Northern Idaho for Thanksgiving break, my parents and I were driving to a family hike and I got to catch up with them. As I was describing to them the idea behind this story you’re currently reading, they offered their point of view on how they feel when I come home for breaks and spoke for parents in general. They said they feel like no matter how long I’m home for, it goes by too fast. Then, they’re left waiting in anticipation for the next time I come home. I learned that parents just want communication about when their kids will be around, so they can make their time together special.
With all of that said, you best believe bickering still happens. I’ve learned that there’s room for healthy conflict when you’ve had more world experience after being away. So, don’t let the idea of conflict scare you, it’ll be okay. Maybe you need to confront someone, apologize to someone, or forgive someone during break. Boise State’s Conflict Management Resource Center can help prepare you for these conversations. I know I don’t necessarily have the exact same views on everything my family does, but it’s a good thing for inviting mature, respectful conversations with an open mind.
I remember conversations with my dad in the car when he graciously drove all the way to Boise last year so I didn’t have to drive on the snowy roads all the way back home. This was the first time I had seen him since moving to Boise. We had 8 ½ hours to catch up, so I told him about how it was eye opening to be in a bigger city with people from all walks of life who have different opinions and ideas rather than staying in the bubble of the small town I grew up in (where everyone knew everyone — or thought they did — and judged each other). He questioned what I meant by “different opinions and ideas”. I could feel his parental concern rising, so I assured him that if going to a university had changed me, it was for the better.
Fast forward a year later to Thanksgiving break 2022 — I talked to my parents about sibling conflict (my least favorite topic). My mom explained that, generally, when the older sibling comes back, they’re more of a helper to the parents to set an example for the younger sibling(s). When the college student comes back home with the new status of adulthood (and hopefully maturity) they’re obviously not a child anymore. It helped to hear that the rules put in place for me to follow are really more for the younger sibling who doesn’t understand the independence and responsibility of being out of the house. So, when I’m asked to clean up my stuff in the bathroom (when I just have a hairbrush on the counter) or take out the trash (full of my brother’s pizza boxes and mcdonalds bags), it’s so my brother sees that I’m doing my part in the household, and he should too.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about breaks from school is that having expectations set me up for disappointment or frustration. I might expect the week to go a certain way, see all the people I want to see, have important conversations, and get projects done. I love planning, but things always come up and I need to put what I had planned to do on the back burner to be in the moment with the people I went home to see. It’s so much more fulfilling to put my attention on what’s most important, like the people right in front of me, rather than what’s initially on my agenda.
This break, I got to spend time with my long-distance boyfriend and his family, since we’re from the same hometown and get to be in the same place for the holidays. He lives just seven minutes away from me, so it was really sweet to have a second home to go to and spend quality time with more people I care about and am getting to know. I had planned to conquer my list of tasks over break: homework, painting projects, house shopping, and planning a service project. But in the moment, I felt like it was a better use of my time to let my boyfriend’s teenage sister teach me how to make pecan and apple pies, stay for casual dinners and chat with the parents about Star Wars and podcasts, and look through photo albums to “aww” at my boyfriend’s baby pictures.
When it came time to load my stuff into my little 2002 slug bug and pick up my road trip buddy (my friend who also goes to Boise State) to hit the road at the crack of dawn (more like 8 a.m.), I had sweet goodbyes with my parents. My little brother even hugged me (a rare occurrence). I knew I’d be back in a matter of weeks so it was more like, “See you later.”
Driving back to Boise, my heart felt full. My friend and I had 8 ½ hours in the car to share how our weeks went and reflect on how we can still keep our identities as adults and preserve our independence, while being under our parents’ roofs when we go back to see them. We agreed that the week didn’t go like either of us had planned (as far as getting homework done and seeing everyone we wanted to), but it was a much-needed time to relax and reconnect with family.
As we wound through the tree-covered mountains dusted with snow, my friend was lulled to sleep for a bit in the passenger seat, and I was left with my thoughts. I was proud of myself for getting better at letting go of my expectations and making time for my family, friends, and partner. My first year, I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my life in Boise, but now I’m looking forward to the next trek I get to make across Idaho to keep maintaining the relationships I still have in my hometown…as long as my slug bug can keep making the journey.