December 8, 2015

YU | Going Home

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Like many others this winter break, I will be embarking on the exciting yet frightful journey that is returning home for the first time after coming to college. It’s been almost four months since I last stepped foot in my home in sunny Palo Alto, California, leaving it for the freezing and desolate wasteland (or at least that’s what my parents think it to be) otherwise known as Ithaca, New York. And in only a matter of a few days, I’ll be flying back to the Bay Area, finally returning to friends and family, a luxury unbeknownst to many of my friends on the East Coast who can simply go home with a snap of their fingertips.

Back home, there’s so much that I am impatiently thrilled to see or experience again. I miss the important people in my life: my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister and my friends. I miss the food, namely REAL Mexican food and Philz Coffee. I miss my privileges, like the ability to drive or having an entire room to myself.

I miss the scenery of the California coast — its rocky beaches and its towering redwoods. I miss San Francisco — its vibrant, off-beat personality and all the adventures I’ve had there. But of all things that I’ll be returning to, there’s one thing that I’m a little apprehensive to return to: Me, or at least the life I had before I left for college.

Despite having only been away from home for a mere four months, my time at college has already shaped me in so many ways mentally, socially and even physically. The Charles returning home will be markedly different than the Charles that left — he will have new friends, new routines, new interests and a new scar on his right pinky from an ice skating accident. He will return ten pounds lighter than when he was when he left, he will have picked up a new fascination for his race and self-identity, and above all, he will return as an adult. The question now is: How will he fit back into the life that he left behind?

My life at school is lived almost completely separate from the one that I left at home. Half the time, my family and friends back home barely have any clue as to what it is I’m up to. And at the same time, my family members have continued living their lives independent from me. Sure, I hear tidbits here and there — that Jeffery passed his Tae Kwon Do test or that Amy made it on the volleyball team — but all of it is just small talk exchanged over the phone. In my absence, I wonder how my family members have changed and how our family dynamics have evolved, if at all.

This same line of questioning can be extended to my relationships with all of my college-going friends, too: Who will be the most changed when we all return? Will we all pretend to be the exact same people we were when we left?

Or perhaps nothing has changed at all. Perhaps when I return, it will be as if I hit “Play” on paused film, and I will pick up my life right back up from where I left it. Perhaps the life I’ve lived here at Cornell, the new experiences I’ve had, the person I’ve become — all of it — will seem to be a dream once I fall back into my old rhythm.

Charles Yu is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. Hailing from sunny Palo Alto, California, he frets for his first Ithaca winter and will most likely be found huddled up next to the radiator in his room in the dead of winter. He enjoys twenty-minute-turned-two-hour naps, Oolong tea and Amazon Prime two-day free shipping. His posts appear on alternate Tuesdays this semester. He can be reached at [email protected].