We’re coming up on THAT TIME again ~ when the stars align to create the most stress possible: the end of the semester and the prospect of spending the next five weeks with family. You’re all too aware of the crush of finals to be studied for, papers and projects to be wrapped up…or for some, started…. Hardly anyone views the next three weeks as a slam dunk, and so it’s certainly not necessary to pretend that you’re not feeling pressure and anxiety. All-nighters are a fact of life, and for some become an Olympic sport. How you’re feeling and coping through these days is a lot of what you talk about.
The other stressor, though, may not be so public. Going home is not easy. For many of you the homecoming itself is usually fairly joyous, even though it may only have been a few weeks since they saw you last. This time it’s festive and probably stands in great contrast to the grueling weeks you’ve just put in. There are some things you didn’t count on, though. You’re different. In September you step out of an environment that has shaped you for a lot of years, and another environment and set of people take over. You can’t not change. And while you ask to be treated as the person you have become, you can’t help sneaking glances for a familiar sense of safety and security that comes with being a kid. And that where the struggle can be both within you and on the outside.
Not all of you, though, are eager to go home. For some of you it’s not a safe place. It’s where tension and conflict come to the dinner table and where arguing is heard late into the night. And the hardest part of it is that you’re expected to ignore it and even make believe that you are not seeing what you see or hearing what you hear. It takes a while to admit that the safety and comfort you want and need aren’t there anymore or maybe never were to begin with. You cannot not change either. You are dying for your new maturity to be noticed and while your experience has told you not to expect it, you don’t lose hope easily.
I think both scenarios hold important invitations. Be aware of the person, you, who shows up. Decide how much of you is the version of yourself you want to be. Maybe you haven’t thought about it before, but the truth is you get the choose. There’s an expression in Alcoholics Anonymous that suggests that people have the capacity to “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Figure out who and what you need to become a new and improved version. This is not about asking other people to be different, though you’d love to; it’s about being mindful of the choices you have every day and taking ownership of the ones you make. And for heaven’s sake, don’t be afraid to ask for help. “The devil made me do it!” or being at the mercy of forces beyond your control just don’t work.
So, whether the next five weeks fly by or crawl along, you have a lot more management options over the time you have, the words you speak, the actions you take. Live wisely! And blessings to you all this season.