It is nearing the end of the semester and you are shooting your finals down one by one. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone is happy that the semester is over. Everyone is going home.
Many students in my school come from another state, even another country. It is rare for me to find another native New Yorker on campus. During these hectic times, it is difficult to get your friends together to have a final farewell when they’re busy packing their suitcases.
They, on the other hand, are leaving the friends they’ve made during the semester to return to a town where things have changed. For any situation, there is a sense of time passing, of things being different, and sometimes that can be hard.
Being the only one left around, it feels kind of lonely. For those leaving, sometimes we can feel excluded. Sure, there are things to do in NYC, but what’s the fun of doing them if you’re doing them alone? And when everyone back at home has changed too, how can we still hang out?
Here’s the thing, and I think I’m just figuring it out. Being alone and having that breathing room isn’t a bad thing. It’s a scary thing, but not all scary things are bad. Sometimes we get so used to being with friends at school, with meeting them for lunch before class or for dinner after seminar or on Friday night for drinks that we forget that we have changed along the way. Winter break is a break from school, but it’s also a break from people. Going back home is a way of taking a break from what you know and seeing how far you’ve come. It’s a good time to reconnect with the most important person. Yourself.
Now, this is kind of hard for me. I’ve grown used to hanging out on my friend’s sofa in Nolita and having weekly midweek dinners. It’s become routine. At the same time, I haven’t seen friends from high school, cleaned my closet out, or thought to see if my opinions on things have changed. How am I different from when the semester first started? Did I learn anything valuable about myself along the way? Did I grow as a person? How? Why?
While this a brutal thing to do, winter break is a good time to do these things because there is breathing space from all the people who have been influencing us in the first place. Back at home, whether in a suburban town on the West coast or in a city in Asia, there is a sense of “I’m different” that naturally comes with time. It may be lonely, and relieving, to get away from it all, but in the end, it’s what you make of it.
Image: Tomasz Paciorek