The In-Between: Returning Home After My First Year of College
I just finished my first year of college. I opted for a school out of state—one where I could be sure I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew from back home. I grew up in a smaller town in Iowa, small enough to feel stifling at times. Though I consider myself a very social person, I had a hard time finding the right group of people in my high school. I tested out different groups: the bookish girls from orchestra, the partiers that introduced me to marijuana, and the queer theater kids. I wanted to have fun, feel young, and get out of the house, but it felt wrong to abuse alcohol and drugs and see my grades drop. And, though I support LGBTQ+ causes, I identify as a cis female and felt out of place among that crowd. None of these groups were the completely right fit for me, and so for much of high school, I felt very lost.
College has been a different story. I have found people that I connect with on a level I did not think was possible. A group of upperclassmen, all friends since freshman year, took me in as one of their own near the beginning of my first semester. They are an amazing crowd of artists, musicians, creators, and activists that I feel lucky to be a part of. In middle school, I used to wallow and cry because I didn’t have a group of “best friends,” like all of the female protagonists in the books I was reading did. My mom would tell me, “Oh, Livvy. I know you’ll find your people. Just wait until college.” As a 13-year-old, thinking about having to wait until college seemed like an impossible feat. “College? That is years away!” Now I know my mother was right.
Coming home after my first whirlwind year away in a big city—a year of relishing in my independence—has been a shock to my system. The last couple weeks of school were very intense, a balancing act between studying for final exams and trying to spend time with my boyfriend and friends before summer break. Then, the intensity came to a complete standstill once our car pulled into my garage. Home at last. The first couple of days were incredible. My house felt like a hotel after living in a dorm for the past year. Then the boredom set in.
Navigating this world, one that feels so different yet so nostalgic, has been really interesting. I am aware that I lived in a different place and made memories with new people, but it almost feels as if I am back in high school, frozen in another period of time in my life. Did the last year even happen? My two worlds, home and away at college have no crossover, which has me feeling like my whole college experience was something I dreamt.
It's hard to wave goodbye to the self that was cultivated while I was at college. She was independent, productive, fearless, social, and happy, at least for the most part. Almost four hours away from home, I was able to grow into the girl I’d always wanted to be in high school but wasn’t. Back at home, I am relying on my parents more. It is bizarre to feel like I’ve made so much progress and figured out how to live on my own, only to be back under my parent’s roof and dependent on them once again.
I know that my feelings are fleeting. Summer goes by so fast, and soon I will be back in the city. This is my first and last summer back home from college. I have already signed a lease on a house for next school year which will continue into next summer. But, for now, I am living in another universe, the place in between childhood and adulthood. Sometimes, though, double lives aren't so bad.
By Liv Martin, 19