A few months ago, one of my friends became visibly upset. When I asked her why, she said that her parents hadn’t responded to her in four hours, and she was beginning to worry. At first, I wanted to laugh because it seemed like something so minuscule, something I would never think to worry about. But then it made me realize how I barely contact my parents and how they always contact me. The other day, my mom simply sent me a heart emoji, without me prompting her to do so. Sometimes she will just say “what’s up?” at a random time. She wants me to know she is thinking about me.
Unfortunately, I find that most of my replies are quick and vague, especially if I have a lot going on that day. Most of the time I just send an emoji back or a classic “nothing much, how about you?” I can go days without calling or texting, and usually (actually more than just usually) it is just because I choose not to call. Classes and social events swallow up so much of my energy, and my life here ends up eclipsing my life back home.
Basically, I get lazy. I think about my mom and my dad and how they are doing and what they are up to. I think about them all the time, but the problem is I don’t let them know I am thinking about them. Sometimes we become so invested in the Princeton bubble and forget that there are other important things, so much more important things, out there.
I am one of five daughters, and we have all moved out of the house we sold this past year. With all of us gone, my parents have learned the ins and outs of technology. My dad sends snapchats of himself in his scrubs before he goes into surgery. Most days, when I wake up, my mom has already sent a bitmoji that says “morning hugs.” For how much I use my phone, it should be easy for me to keep up with them, but I never seem to find the right time.
When I was homesick, at the beginning of my freshman year, every day felt like the right time to call my parents. My life here was so foreign to me because I was starting from scratch; there was no life yet to begin. I called every day and every night, sometimes leaving my mom on call throughout the night. I needed them in a way that feels different now.
Now, I have constructed a community here. Now, I have had to learn to do for myself what my parents had always done for me. They kept me afloat until — suddenly — I no longer needed a buoy. And sometimes, my newly found independence leads me to believe I can handle everything on my own. I can sweep stress and friends and parties under the rug; my parents don’t need to hear it. In some ways, college has made me realize how lucky I am to have my family, but in other ways, it has closed me off, and I have opted to internalize what happens here. It’s the “you had to have been there” excuse, so I can escape any long stories or explanations. Besides, most class days just feel monotonous and similar.
But what I have come to learn is that the relationship I have with my parents is not based on necessity. They want to know about what I wore on a night out or something funny my professor said. They want to hear about what happened, even if it is an inside joke or they had to be there to really understand it. They want to hear about my day, even if it sounds like every other day of the week. They are itching to hear about the uneventful times as much as the dramatic ones.
When they ask about school or my social life, they are really just asking about me. They are trying to grab hold of any pieces, big or small, of the woman I am becoming, the one of many daughters who flew so far from the nest. At the end of the day, my parents are just two people: they aren’t superheroes. They can’t read my mind or my thoughts. They don’t have superhuman strength. They break down and they cry. They feel homesick, too.
If you are like me, you might have not called your parents or any other family members because of convenience or laziness or some other excuse. A week has passed, and you might have thought about your mom or your sister or your uncle but haven’t made the effort to talk. If you do keep in touch frequently, I applaud you — keep on doing what you are doing. But if you don’t, give the people you love a call because I promise they are wondering about you. I promise any story is a good story.
Winnie Brandfield-Harvey is a junior Wilson School concentrator from Houston, Texas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.