Eden-Rose Baker is a journalism junior and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
As a child, I watched Disney Channel Christmas specials and looked forward to the holidays and being home. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that gathering the family together feels more like the “Gossip Girl” Thanksgiving episode than “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
During the school year, I spend a lot of time processing my family’s dynamics and how they impact me as an adult. I tend to push friends and partners away or avoid getting too close to people because my dad cannot stick around for more than a year at a time. I sabotage longtime or uplifting relationships because my parent’s expectations of me have broken me down.
I often procrastinate going back home and leaving early to avoid feeling like I am not good or deserving enough for people to stick around. When I am at home, a lot of trauma resurfaces, and I need a couple of days back in San Luis Obispo before school starts to recharge and process those feelings.
This isn’t an uncommon problem. Gen. Z questions the societal norms that their parents grew up with and projected onto them, and this oftentimes causes strife between parents and children. According to Affinity Magazine, some of these societal norms include not discussing mental health issues, gender roles and gun violence and ownership. College is also a time when young adults learn about societal structures and why they are problematic, and older generations, especially Generation X, have created and enforced these structures. Learning about these structures and/or having time to process childhood trauma can cause strife between parents and their children.
With Gen Z being more open about mental health and learning about subtle habits that trigger larger issues, I have been able to notice little things that really hurt. Discovering that something as seemingly small as my parents comparing me to others feels catastrophic has been really healing. It has given me the peace to realize that my feelings are a product of my environment, but that I am not unworthy of having good friends or a successful career. Sometimes going home means having to shove all of that progress aside to survive, and that just feels so disingenuous.
I want to go home and be true to myself and show the progress that I’ve made, but it is often construed as an insult to my upbringing. The truth is, I can’t be genuine around my family without hurting their feelings.
As much as I would like to have that same childlike feeling I once had around the holidays, it is not going to come back anytime soon. For now, the holidays are a reminder of my parent’s divorce, my dad’s struggle with addiction and the vulnerable experiences I had growing up.
Staying in SLO during Thanksgiving isn’t a great choice for most students because most of their friends go home. Being alone in SLO can just make someone who already feels alone around their family feel even more isolated.
For on-campus students, staying in the residence halls during winter break is not a financially feasible option. According to the University Housing website, it costs $1,500 to stay on campus for those three weeks, which is more expensive than renting a single room for a month in most apartments and houses in SLO.
Even though it isn’t a feasible option to stay on campus during the break, there are options for either avoiding family or coping with trauma while at home. Students can find other students who are staying in SLO over the break and room with them off-campus. If they decide to stay on campus and pay the fines, they can celebrate the holiday with other students who decide to do so.
If students decide to go home and are having a hard time, they can try to reconnect with old friends or go to old places they used to love. When I’m home, I go to old restaurants I used to go to with my friends or visit the scenic views I used to go to.