I live in the infamous Thurston Hall where on Friday nights, there are more smokers out front than beers at a frat party and where at any time of day or night the dress code ranges from a suit and tie to a bathrobe and slippers. However, all of that changed last weekend. According to the Office of Parent Services, more than 1,500 parents infiltrated our campus and all of a sudden the whole dynamic changed. We are all on our best behavior. Friday night came around and low-and-behold, no smokers. Everyone was dressed nicely and come 2 a.m., when usually a rousing game of hall soccer is just starting to heat up, there was silence.
Its funny, really – we freshman have been in college for not even two months now setting up our new lives, physically and metaphorically, and all it takes is a single weekend for our newly established worlds to no longer feel like our own. Parents’ weekend brings not only cases of water and a trip to a nice restaurant, but a chance to see your new world through all-too-familiar eyes.
It is interesting to think about the clashing of the worlds. For many of us, our lives before college were so different than they are now. The most obvious difference was summed up nicely for us at CI: “College, no parents!” But there are many more significant elements that set our current lives apart.
We are on our own now. Unlike high school, where Mom would be there to make sure you got to school on time, here the responsibility of getting to class falls solely on you. Buying food and toiletries, washing clothes, managing your money – all on you. But most importantly, we are now making most of our life decisions on our own. We are getting our first taste of actual responsibility and it is changing most of us, for better or for worse.
Some people came to college looking to become a different person – less shy, more adventurous, more outgoing, more studious (yeah right), while a lucky few were just looking to be themselves as they were totally satisfied before coming to college and see no reason to change. But regardless of the reason, the inevitable change that has been taking place this past month and a half causes quite a stir when the parents come. We are forced, subconsciously or otherwise, to examine the people we have so recently turned into.
Our parents know and love us as the people we were before we left, and we have trained ourselves to be that person when we are around our parents. The conflict happens when the life we left behind comes to visit us for the weekend.
So the question now is, who are we? Are we the person we left behind or are we the person we have been trying to be for the past month? I contend we are the person many of us are trying so hard to leave at home. All of our lives we have been someone – a musician, a writer or an athlete. Now many of us are trying to be someone new, someone that ultimately, we just aren’t. Of course, there are people that actually do use their escape to college as a way to break our of their shells or to leave an unfavorable reputation behind, and there is nothing wrong with making the most of a new start, as long as it is done for the right reasons and in the right way.
However, I ultimately believe, and perhaps upperclassmen can confirm, that within the next few months, people will stop pretending. If at home your idea of a good Saturday night was a movie with friends, it probably won’t take too long before going out three times a week gets really old, and you settle back into more comfortable and familiar patterns. Those among us who are trying to find our new identities here in college will settle into a personality that, oddly enough, is scarily similar to the personality we left at home.
Seeing our parents this last weekend was a much-needed dose of reality for many of us. When we were forced to be the person we were in August, it reminded us of our upbringing. All of a sudden we weren’t all smokers, partiers and out-of-control frat boys. We weren’t pretending, we weren’t putting on a show or trying to impress anyone. We were just us-just as it should be.and then Monday came.
The writer is a freshman majoring in political science.