Tuesday, January 02, 2007

There's No Place LIke Home...Until You Make a New One

An article in the paper today caught my attention:
Janise Stone spent her first semester in college dreaming of home -- literally.

Stone, 18, would get up in the morning and grudgingly attend classes at Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. But the minute she returned to her dormitory, she curled up and thought of family in Indianapolis as she slept the day away.

"I was so depressed," Stone said while at home for the holidays. "I just kept thinking that if I slept through it, I'd eventually get back home."

She isn't alone.

Almost everyone experiences occasional homesickness, but many young people suffer from a particularly intense form that interferes with normal activities, according to a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics offers tips to physicians for recognizing risk factors among patients who are leaving home for the first time.

"Leaving home is a universal developmental milestone," said Dr. Edward Walton, co-author of the report and an assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Michigan. "Our goal is for them not to lose time and experience in the adjusting," he said.
Read the whole thing. This article resonated with me, because, while I wasn't as bad off as the student profiled in the article, I did have a rather intense form of homesickness during my first few weeks of college.

I was the trailblazer among my group of friends, the majority of whom went to UT-Austin and majored in some sort of engineering. (There was one other guy in our group who did a sort of music major, but he stayed in town and went to Rice. I haven't talked to him in years, but I Googled him the other day, and he's sort of doing what I'm doing, but at a college in California.) After moving around for the first five years of my life, I had finally been someplace for ten years, finally found a place where I fit in. And now I was leaving it all behind so that I could attend college at the best place to get a music degree in Texas.

As I said, my experience was not as bad as that of Janise in the article, who had evidently never even been away from home for as much as a sleepover! I actually had a great pre-college experience at the monthlong music camp I attended at the University of Kansas; we lived in dorms, got used to bad cafeteria food, were there just long enough to start to get annoyed by our roommates, etc. It prepared me in many ways for the real thing--except for the homesickness part. In the summer, it was great to be away from everything for a month, but college was obviously more permanent.

I still say to this day that things would have been better if I'd had a car right away. But I'm the oldest kid, so I was the guinea pig in that respect; my parents had attended college when there were "car rules"--i.e. you couldn't have one at school until you lived off-campus. They decided that I could wait a semester and see if I "needed" one.

Orientation was pretty cool; I met a lot of nice people, and everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly. I played the baritone sax and was used to using school instruments, and the people who rented out such things for the school assured me that there were plenty of baris for the taking. I had no reason to think that things wouldn't go swimmingly once I got there.

Except that, on the first day, everything started to fall apart. It was a weird week as it was, since we got there on a Tuesday and had to learn a short marching show for a game that would take place that Saturday, even before classes began. They didn't march baris at UNT, so I was given a tenor; being a freshman, I didn't exactly get a top-of-the-line horn, and the one that I was given didn't even have an octave key post! (It would get worse during the first week of school, when the same people who said there were plenty of school horns turned around and said that they were only available to those in a concert band or a lab band, and I didn't fall into one of those categories. Thus, I ended up taking the first several lessons of my college career on that broken tenor. My first instructor had the patience of a saint...)

And then I started getting sick, for no reason. I went to the student health center (lovingly dubbed the Quack Shack), where they couldn't explain what was wrong with me, but they said my blood count was messed up....this, after having had a perfect physical not a week before. Someone also joked that if I'd seen the lake where Denton's water came from, I'd start throwing up all over again.

The sickness continued into the first week of classes, which was more than annoying. I somehow made it through the first football game, but I still kept getting sick randomly. After a while, I decided that I needed to get well, no matter what my body was telling me. So that's what happened. I thought myself well. It was put-up or shut-up time, and I decided to grab life by the cojones and yank as hard as I could.

And it worked. It certainly helped that I took advantage of the fact that some new freinds I'd made, from another part of Houston, were going home after the first weekend of school and invited me to come along. Just being able to see the family again, along with a few folks who were still in high school, made me aware that the things I had left behind would still be there whenever I visited again. My parents weren't too thrilled at first that I had come back so soon, but after I was there, they understood, and Mom's cooking took care of the rest of whatever it is that ailed me. (I would find out years later that, after driving me up to school and coming back, my dad would tell my mom, "Barb, the kid's just not gonna make it." But I did, and I credit the whole mind-over-matter thing, as well as that first trip back.)

And over time, college got to be another form of "home" as well--so much so that I stayed there for two-and-a-half degrees. I feel for the people who are having even a worse time of it than I did, and I hope that they'll find the way to make things all work out too.

I'm in hot water again (in a good way): As of 7:00 tonight, the new water heater was completely installed, and as of a bit after eight, hot water returned to Casa de Kev for "the first time this year" (OK, I know that's only two days). The first beneficiaries were my dinner dishes, but I'm lookng forward to the hot shower in the morning.

Something I meant to post yesterday: An article with a picture of the fireworks display in Sydney, Australia. I'd really love to find a way to get down there for New Year's sometime; it looks amazing.

Not the New Year's baby, but still noteworthy: Last Friday, a 67-year-old Spanish woman gave birth to twins.


James said...

The fireworks over the Sydney Harbour are pretty awesome. I haven't headed down for quite a few years now, but they are just fantastic - the atmostphere is amazing all throughout the harbour.

Kev said...

Yeah man, I bet. If I ever get to be rolling in money, I'm coming down there to see them (and you too) some year.