Alright everyone, if you can believe it, it is week nine already, and that means the term is coming to a close; the holidays are right around the corner, and so is five weeks of family time. For some, this is a heavenly relief, as our university is nothing if not exhausting, but for others, this is just a new kind of exhaustion. I have met a fair amount of students who struggle with spending such a long stretch of time back home, whether it is because they have become more independent, their families do not understand the changes they have undergone or any number of other struggles in a family relationship. Sometimes students get out of the trap that winter break can become by getting an internship elsewhere or working in a few weeks of travel, but not all are so lucky. Thus, for these students, I have some advice for how to make the month of December as painless and, dare I say, as enjoyable as possible.
First and foremost, the name of the game is staying out of the house as much as possible. Ideally, it would be fantastic if we could sit down and have constructive dialogue with our families whenever something is amiss, but this is seldom a legitimate option. Of course you need a place to eat and sleep, but if you can limit the other time spent in your house around your stressors and depressors, do so. And what better way to do that than through friends? Unlike spring break, winter break is plenty long enough to reconnect with people you talked to in high school over coffee or lunch. Even if you have not talked to them in some time or were never particularly close, reach out anyway and have a nice chat — what do you have to lose? If you are still close with people from home, talk to them about your situation and see how they might be able to help you out. Perhaps you can make a weekly wing night happen or have movie night at their place every weekend — whatever keeps you the right kind of busy is an effective solution.
Another group of people you can reach out to is your old role models and favorite adults from childhood. Now that you are an adult yourself, you can talk to your former superiors as equals, so go visit your high school and talk to the English teacher you loved about Freshman Studies — positive or negative opinions both make for a good conversation — or ask your old coach how the last season went. Outside of high school, maybe this is a good chance to build relationships with your extended family. When I started to have problems with my immediate family, I found my extended family members to be remarkably understanding and supportive, and my relationships with them still benefit from those interactions. Not everyone has this fortune, but if you see potential for a good relationship with your extended family, go for it!
While internships may not necessarily be in the cards for you, perhaps a seasonal job or volunteer opportunity would serve you as well as you can serve them. December is certainly a month of employment opportunity, and most college students are still deep in their semesters, so start applying soon to get some good cash flow over break and escape the confines of your house. However, be aware that seasonal jobs often want a full 40-hour week from you, sometimes with overtime, and while that is completely fine for some, others may not have the energy or even the social skills to spend so many days per week helping grumpy customers around the local Target. This is to say, do not be afraid to tell an employer how many hours you can do, but be aware that they may be picky. If spending money is not a major concern and you want some room to breathe in your work week, look into ways you can help your community. Volunteering is another big opportunity market during the holiday season, and there is sure to be a group nearby that could use your help. Plus, while jobs are typically a means to an end, volunteering makes you part of something bigger than yourself and can give you inspiration or a sense of fulfillment that other winter opportunities just cannot. Though not always as enjoyable as chatting with old pals over hot drinks, work opportunities can provide other benefits and more consistent time away from home, not to mention they can go on a resume!
Family is a tricky beast, and while we can all aspire to get along with them better, sometimes it is better to focus on taking care of oneself. I hope that this break you may have the best time you can find in the way that is safest for you. With that, I thank you all for reading Life at Lawrence this term, and stay tuned for whatever column I may bring to the table Winter Term. Have a wonderful break and see you in the new year!