Moving away from home can be a really scary experience; especially when you are still in high school. Being on your own is also a really amazing thing. You learn so much in that first year.
Aside from occasional homesickness, you learn how to take care of yourself. You buy your own groceries and do your own laundry. You also become a smart buyer; you know what you need and what you don’t. Coming from someone who has been living eight hours away from home for the past two years, I can tell you there are ups and downs. I hope my story can help you if you are going to be living on your own soon.
So it all started when I decided to go away to school which was both intimidating and exciting. “Intimidating” because I was going into a completely new environment. I had the pressure of making new friends and finding my way around. Let’s face it, you may never really feel fully comfortable in a new place unless you’ve been in it for at least a month. But let’s not dwell on the negative.
Being on your own for the first time is so “exciting!” You are learning how to be independent, a feeling you so desire when you are a young teen. Parents don’t tell you all the time what you can and can’t do, so you start to feel more grown up and responsible. Wherever you’re going, you’re going to for a reason. So why not let yourself be excited? This is your first step to a bright future!
Moving in doesn’t start to hit you yet that you will be saying goodbye to your family in less than 24 hours. Unpacking usually involves your family. You are folding clothes, making beds, and setting up your little decorations. You play games with the other kids and may even had a bonfire where you can play ice breakers which, not going to lie, can be difficult at first. You then finish up last minute shopping and say your final goodbyes.
This was the hardest part for me. I was standing outside at the car about to hug my siblings and parents goodbye. I was crying…a lot… and so were my parents and siblings. I was the first to leave home in the family by two weeks (my older sister went to college that same year) so they knew that this was the start of the empty nest. I hugged and kissed my whole family and watched them drive away. Then another kid who happened to be saying goodbye bye to his family at the same time walked me back inside and told me that it was okay and that I will see them again soon. I felt better.
That first night in the dorm was quieter than my home was. Sometimes, I was alone with my thoughts. For me, I thought of home and my siblings and how weird it was going to be to wake up and not be sharing a room with my little sister, but instead sharing a room with a teammate. I called home to say goodnight extremely late and cried again. This was hard. I felt a weird loneliness, like something was missing.
The next morning, the feeling slowly started to fade. I was making friends and we even did the ice water challenge. I had practice for hockey and was distracted for basically the rest of the year. I was focused on school and sports so much that I really didn’t have time to think about home. The only time I did was when I was about to fall asleep and usually by then I was so tired I just fell asleep. The worst part – the goodbyes… were over.
From drop off to the first time I got to see my family again was almost four months. I had never been away from home for more than a night which made four months seem like an eternity. Then, one day I was sitting in my best friend’s room and I received a phone call from my parents. They asked me what I was being for Halloween and made small talk. Then, out of nowhere, they told me that on Halloween (the next weekend) I was coming home. I was so excited to know that in just a week I would be getting on a plane to see my family for the first time since the start of August. When I first stepped off of the plane I ran to baggage claim (that’s where they said they would be) and surely there they all were waiting for me when I came down the escalator. It was like in a movie; I slowly came down the escalator and the wall above seemed to life as to slowly revel the family I’ve missed so much. I was so happy.
Once in the car, I told a hundred stories of all my dorm and school adventures. My life went right back to how it was before I left. It felt as though nothing had changed, and I was still living at home. Trust me when I tell you the time apart is so worth it when you get to be back with your family. You will start to appreciate all that they do for you and the sacrifices they make. You will learn to appreciate the small kitchen conversations and family dinners a little more, knowing that these times are limited.
Enough of the talk about leaving and coming back. We need to talk about the important lessons you learn being on your own. You know how you put your clothes in the hamper and they are magically clean and folded on your made bed later on? Yeah that probably won’t happen. Things like laundry tend to pile up, literally. Remember to do laundry! Always wash your clothes on cold because you never know what will shrink or bleed. Also, use wash load pods instead of detergent because if you happen to take your clothes out of the wash early, the liquid detergent can cause stains. Always remember to keep your room clean because you don’t want ants. Your dorm room is your bedroom. Tidy up often because in my experience, it gets messy quickly.
When living on your own, you have to shop whether it be for groceries or bathroom products. This teaches you the important lesson of what is a necessity and what is a luxury. You don’t need every new shirt or pair of shoes because if you thought you had a full suitcase coming to school, it’s going to be even worse when you leave if you shop a ton. Your whole life has to fit in those suitcases you came with and possibly onto airplane friendly bags.
I learned that space bags can be your friends, but be careful because they make it very easy to make your bags overweight. Short little story: My mom and I were flying me home for summer break. I filled a giant suitcase with space bags and the weight was 52 pounds. That’s two pounds over the weight limit for checked bags. We had to rearrange and shove things into bags that were underweight and it was all just a hilarious mess. Moral of the story… weigh your bags before you get to the airport.
Emotionally, there are a few more things you should know. You’re going to have good nights and not-so-good nights. Remember to call home often. You will get homesick. Your family will miss you. On those nights where you have nothing to do, you’re going to think about home. This is when friends can help most. Think about it, every “dormer” is sharing your experience; the people you live with are on the same journey. You can definitely get together for a movie or something but be careful not to be a Debbie Downer. To hear someone talk about home can make you sad too. You don’t want it to be a crying fest. Trust me. Been there, done that. Do something fun and get your mind off of things. As always, healthy distractions can be your lifeline.
Going away to school was one of the best decisions I have ever made in regards to my future and my overall growth as a person. It wasn’t always easy, but I survived. I did. I went from being someone who rarely slept at a friend’s house to someone who has traveled halfway across the country to be with friends over spring break instead of being home.
You learn to deal with homesickness in a way that it barely affects you. You learn that your family does so much for you. They go through the same pain you do. Being at home, you get used to what is normal and you get into a routine. You are comfortable. When you’re away, you get dragged far out of your comfort zone though it isn’t in a bad way. It is amazing and eye-opening. It makes you so excited for what is to come. You start to picture a future doing what you want to do. You feel like you can accomplish anything and you know deep down that your family is right there behind you every step of the way.
So if you are about to leave home, remember that it’s going to be hard at times, but man is it worth it.