Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

And Now…Deja Vu

Three (!) years ago, I wrote a piece here called The Second Week Blues, in which I chronicled how The Magpie had done great at school for the first week plus, then hit a bump. What I didn’t tell you is that there was more to the story. Yes, she had picked up a nasty computer virus which kept her up late into the night, but around the same time, there was something else that kept her up all night as well. And I woke up early (as I tend to do) on a weekend morning and found a message on the answering machine from her, a very unhappy message that was left after a very unhappy incident involving one of her suite-mates that pulled The Magpie in because the walls are thin in those dorms.

Flash forward three years. Yesterday morning it was The Catbird leaving an early-morning message, again due to an incident involving a dorm-mate that began around 3 a.m. and left her a little shaken. The good news is no one was hurt as far as I can tell. Alcohol was involved in this case, as it was in the incident in The Magpie’s dorm 3 years ago, as it is in so many things that go wrong on college campuses these days. How this one will play out remains to be seen, but it raises a question: How do you know the difference between being homesick and knowing that a place is not for you? (This is not The Catbird’s question; despite the incident, she’s still pretty solid)

The person in the incident in The Catbird’s dorm has a very bad case of homesickness and has declared her intention to leave school. My wife and I are in agreement here: one week is not enough to know (in most cases, at least); you need to give it more time. But how long is long enough? How much time do you need to power through to the other side? At what point do you go from saying, “Give it more time, you’ll get over it” to “Okay, come on home”? Everyone is different, so the answer will vary for each person, but it IS a good question, an important question. Some people are not ready for life away from home at 18, and some people are not suited for every place. I do not envy this person, or her parents. Withdrawing from a college is a big decision, one that should not be made lightly, and I hope they make the right decision.

And now, music. Something melancholy, I think, given the mood.

Finally, I should point out that Agent Carrie is once more open to submissions for her Query Critique Contest! If you’ve got a query ready to go, check out her blog and find out how to enter, and then check back to critique the query when it’s posted. Critiquing queries is a great way to hone your own skills at writing those oh-so-difficult beasts that are oh-so-necessary.

That’s it, have a great week!

8 Responses

  1. Some people have a tougher transition than others. You read so often about "helicopter" parents who've micro-managed their child's life to the point the child has no experience with disappointment or adversity, or even making decisions that affect their own life. Tough when they're thrown out there on their own for the first time.

  2. LG raises a great point. I never experienced homesickness. My mom died when I was 14, and 2 years later my father remarried. She had a Jeckle/Hyde personality thing going and my home experience became very hellish. No way did I want to go back there. .

  3. That's tough! The first couple of weeks seem to be the most difficult for some kids – add in the alcohol and it can be very trying. Hope it all works out for them – it is very stressful watching the drama from the sidelines.

  4. Part of it might be that you can probably get a hefty percentage of your money back if you drop out that early (though I'm not certain on that and it probably depends upon where you're going). I just started college last week and I'm a commuter, partially because my full ride requires me to commute and partially because I don't want to live on a college campus. I don't think college campuses are necessarily the best place to live. Whether you can determine that quickly whether or not the place is for you, I think that is too hard to say.

  5. -LG–we have tried very hard not to be those kinds of parents, though how successful we've been remains to be seen!
    -Donna–it's very unfortunate that someone should want to leave home for those reasons–home should never be hellish. Sadly, it is for many people.
    -Jemi–it's definitely tough knowing there's nothing you can do but watch and offer moral support and advice.
    -Patrick–best of luck to you in college! Campus can be a great experience, but it's definitely not for everyone. Regarding the refund, there is a good point there, and looking at the college's policy, the percentage refunded for withdrawing drops–a lot–each week. Whether the student is even thinking about that or not, I don't know, but I bet the parents are!

  6. I couldn't wait to go off to college and have never been homesick. Everyone has their own path to travel in life. If a person wants to go home after one week, they must not be very interested in pursuing higher education/a career to begin with and probably needs the stability of a familiar homelife. Sure is a lot of money to lose by leaving school early though…

  7. It can definitely be a reality check. I would say give it more than a week, but that's up to the individual and her family. Glad your daughter is sticking in there.

  8. -Lexa–you are fortunate to have not been homesick!
    -Nick–it is ultimately an individual decision–can you decide accurately in a week? I'm not sure.
    UPDATE: Things seem to have settled down with the person in question. They are staying. Hopefully, this was their low point and it's all up from here.

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