September 08, 2014

Leaving the nest

From the time I was in middle school, I knew I was sacrificing hanging out with friends and lazy afternoons because I wanted, more than anything, to go to a college of my choice and move away from home. Looking back, it’s a little alarming that at 13 years old, I wanted to be on my own but I’ve always been the “black sheep” of the family. I have four facial piercings, don’t see the value in shaving, dream of smashing the patriarchy, and have always fostered a deep desire to punch people who make get-back-in-the-kitchen jokes. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone I would be the first of my siblings to move away from home.

When I told my dad I had been accepted to UC Berkeley, within a matter of seconds, his facial expressions changed from excitement to dread. I had been talking about Berkeley for years and he realized I was not going to let an opportunity like that slip away from me. However, that didn’t stop him from making the next two months of my life miserable.

From the time I received my acceptance letter to when I had to submit my SIR (Statement of Intent to Register), my dad could have received a Golden Globe for best dramatic performance. We had daily talks, most of which developed into screaming fights. He, whether he meant to or not, made me feel terribly guilty about “leaving the family.” Even though I repeatedly explained I was moving away to get a good education, he accused me of wanting to move away so I could be out at all hours of the night.

Being born with this terrible stubbornness that runs through my veins, I never let him see just how badly his words hurt me. That was until one day I couldn’t take it anymore and burst into tears, asking why he couldn’t understand that it was going to be hard for me, too. I finally let out all the frustrations I had pent up for months, upset he was thinking I was going to be skipping off to college when in reality, I was terrified of being away from home.

He apologized and we talked things through. Three years later, he’s finally given up on asking if I’m 100 percent sure I don’t want to go to a local community college. I don’t hold it against him and he, at least on some deeper level, understands that I really am working hard. Getting my Dad on board with going away to college was not something that happened over night. It is a process that is still evolving.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some important things to remember:

  • Don’t feel guilty. Put yourself first. You’re the one who has to wake up every morning and get to class, not your parents. You worked hard to get accepted to the college, you deserve to go.
  • Remind them you’ll visit on holidays and breaks between semesters/quarters. Maybe joke that they’ll like you so much more because they won’t see you as often.
  • Communication is key. Perhaps your parents don’t understand why you want to attend a school so far away. Sit them down and do your best to talk them through your mindset.
  • Put yourself in your parents’ shoes. It’s hard to deal with the fact that you won’t be seeing an amazing and beautiful person you helped raise.
  • Utilize technology via Facetime, Skype,etc.
  • Prepare yourself: you might be ready to run out the door after graduation but if it is your first time away from home, it can also be scary. Get acquainted with the city (if you can’t physically go visit, look online) and map out a few places/school groups you’d be interested in joining.
  • Get excited! You’re going to start a new chapter of your life. Maybe it’s scary but in my experience, some of the best things have resulted from situations that made me take a chance.