Oberlin Blogs

Breakaway (not like the Kelly Clarkson song)

November 9, 2016

Nick Endicott ’20

During the week before my Friday evening flight to Boston, I repeated the words like a litany: God, I am so excited to go home! And I was. I had been at Oberlin for nearly two months. I hadn't seen anyone from my life before at all, save the occasional FaceTime, if that even counts (#youth).

At Oberlin, I would claim that I wanted to see my dog (I did) or my parents and sisters (still true) or my friends (totally), but what I was really seeking was the pivotal moment when I became, for the first time in my life, an actual adult, someone who visits home, rather than is visited there. I didn't just want to go home, I wanted to feel a palpable increase in maturity.

For each of my older sisters, I can recall the moment distinctly. They returned, exhausted, in clothes I had somehow never seen on them before, with intriguing stories that the whole family stayed up late listening to. We poured cup after cup of herbal tea and gabbed in the living room, offering each of our interpretations or suggestions to their problems. Maybe it's worst on Halloween, we said of the Vassar nudists. And with each subsequent return, this became an odd, but always welcome, ritual.

Well, this was my time. I was ready. My hair was cut, my ears were pierced, and I was armed with plenty of wild anecdotes. But my family barely cared. Turns out they just wanted to see me, no matter what I looked like, or said, or did. Well, ok...

But I think the problem was that I have no younger siblings, no one there to zip their lips and listen in. My older sister, Julia, was home, but with two years of her own college experience behind her, she did little more than bat an eyelash. What a letdown! I thought. I go to Oberlin, certainly one of the more "out there" schools in this country! Why won't anyone listen to me?!

So my family only dwelled on my newly pierced ears (which I accurately assured them was a mild form of rebellion). I was disappointed they didn't ask for more, and didn't care when I gave more to them, like I got this huge scar on my toe when I was biking on my friend's bike that was too small for me, and it took all this skin off! or There's no rhyme or reason to Oberlin's architectural history. Cass Gilbert had these grand plans, but they were delayed and ultimately forgotten.

So leaving campus is a little weird, and going home after two transformative months at Oberlin is even weirder. I wasn't disappointed and I wasn't thrilled; I was only able to perceive a minute shift in the way I see things. In my town, I began to view things I had seen hundreds of times before in a different light, and I appreciated the things that I had always taken for granted, particularly the distinct sense of "home."

Break didn't install a new sense of maturity in me like I hoped, but it gave me a fresh perspective, which is invaluable to growing up. And that perspective, my tiny personality change, also reassured me about something I was pretty worried about: It told me I can make this work. I can be bicoastal (yeah, Lake Erie has a shore!) and do it well. I can care about my two homes separately, because I can understand them in reference to each other.

The routine journeys from Cleveland to Boston and New York are tough, sure, but doable (and all of y'all can do it too!). And growing up, passing this amorphous and inconceivable threshold, will happen as sort-of naturally as riding a bike that's only slightly too small for you. Maybe you'll stub your toe, but it makes a good story.

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