Thomas Wolfe said it best: “You can’t go home again.” We all tried over Thanksgiving break. We made our strongest efforts to integrate ourselves back into our hometowns, our old friend groups and our families. Between bites of turkey, we attempted to remember how we used to do it — to remember where we fit into it all. Audience by audience, we noticed that things simply weren’t as we left them.
The truth is we can’t return to the narrow confines of our previous lives. For better or for worse, UNC has changed us. And when we packed to go home, we took more than dirty towels and sheets. We took elements of these new lives that we have created for ourselves. We took more profound life lessons than “Don’t pass out with shoes on” and “Don’t have sex if they’re too gone.” No offense to Asher Roth, but for me, three simple lessons made jumping back into life as I left it difficult.
Lesson 1: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” While this lesson may have been inspired by “The Social Network” rather than by the traditional classroom setting, it certainly reflected life on campus. I once thought that the purpose of life was to be loved by all. In just this first semester, I’ve put that naive outlook back on the shelf where it belongs, realizing that quality trumps quantity, and the importance of befriending only the people who are worth it. Upon my return home, it became apparent that some old friends served only to increase my Facebook friend count; their contribution to valuable friendships was negligible.
Lesson 2: Nathaniel Hawthorne once compared happiness to a butterfly, claiming “the more you chase it the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things it comes.” Adjustment is hard, and for a while there, I wondered if UNC was the right choice for me. Only when I stopped chasing this “happiness” and focused on specific, attainable goals like friendships and class work did I find happiness, passion and the courage to explore new ideas.
This lesson points to a fundamental difference between home and school. At home, it seems that everyone has either found happiness or become content with their lives. This directly contradicts the college mentality — at least my impression of it — of questioning everything, seeking more and refusing to settle down. And it’s this contradiction that made returning home difficult.