Kelsey Rohwer: Sometimes it’s nice to hear no

I distinctly remember the first time that I was told no after returning home from college. It was winter break and my friend Kasey, whom I hadn’t seen since last summer, was having a party. I asked my parents if I could go and they responded, point blank, “No.”

I’m pretty sure that my mouth just flat out dropped. I’d grown so accustomed to the concept of yes, that I had nearly forgotten that the concept of no even existed. I spent the rest of the night completing the thought, “If I were at school right now.”

College is a world of yes, if only because there are fewer questions asked. I’m starting my sophomore year and looking back, I never had to ask, “What’s for dinner?,” or “Can I go to Thirds tonight?,” or “Can I borrow the car?” At GW, I made each and every single decision myself, with very limited second-party input. Granted, not all my choices were the right ones. For example, not having dinner and then going to Thirds didn’t really pan out so well, but the decisions were still mine, and my answer was always yes.

There are obvious benefits to living at college, and living with the word yes is one of them. However, throughout our blissful college careers the majority of us will have to return home a few times whether it’s to refuel our bodies, reset our minds or replenish our wallets. Yet, however relaxing home may be, it is still a place where we won’t hear yes as often as we may like. So chances are the transition from college to home isn’t always going to be so pretty.

If I had been at school, I would have gone out. But I wasn’t at school. I was at home. And that is precisely what I had to realize. Without home, college would hardly exist. You cannot learn to appreciate one without the other because it takes a no to appreciate the yes.

In many ways college is like a four-year fantasy world. Even though it’s great, we need to come home to get back in touch with reality, because one very sad day, thirsty Thursday, the 39-cent scoop and the student discount at J. Crew will expire. And the world of yes will expire along with it.

That same day, no will stop coming from our parents and start coming from someone else. For me, it took living at home this summer to realize that sometimes it’s nice to hear no. But more importantly, it would be even nicer to say no. After college, we will have to go to work on Friday mornings, we will have to make ourselves dinner and some of us may have to buy our own cars. The no’s we have heard from our parents have to come from somewhere in the future, so why not from you?

I’ve learned that along with hearing a no, you have to learn to appreciate the little things that separate home from school. So I may not have gone to Kasey’s party, but this summer, every time I saw the coffee mug that my parents left for me on the kitchen counter, I am reminded of why my parents have to say no. They say it now because one day they won’t, and I will have to learn to say it for myself. So for now, it’s nice to hear it from them, especially while I enjoy that free cup of coffee.

– The writer, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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