My mother used to give this advice to new college students: "If you can make it to Christmas, you can make it."
This is partially true. Once you get through the first semester, once you have developed a new routine and made new friends, the huge milestone of going away to college becomes manageable. But by far the hardest part of the whole journey is returning to school after the first holiday break.
You walk back into your dorm. It's the place where you live, where all of your stuff now resides. But it doesn't feel like home. You realize that the house you grew up in — where your parents and siblings and the family dog live, the place where you just spent the holidays and all the holidays before that — suddenly doesn't feel like home either. Even though you take this to be a temporary discomfort, in 10 years, you'll realize you were entering a period of life when there was no "home."
In some ways, this is a positive and necessary step toward adulthood. Real and profound change can happen only in the throes of discomfort. But like all growing pains, this will be a difficult transition. And when it ends, it will be only the first chapter of the book that you have begun to write about yourself.
If this new semester, this particular January, seems especially difficult, take heart knowing that you're not alone.
For once, the entire country is on the same page. We have all awoken from our long winter's nap to a place that isn't really home anymore. None of us know what the world is going to look like next week or next year. We were comfortable, we were complacent, and now we will be thrust into a period of change.
Time will march on, and we will all work toward building a new sense of home for ourselves.
And if we are ever lucky enough to feel at home again — to feel comfortable, included and safe — we need to hold on like hell. Home is not just a place you work for; it's a place you fight for.
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