Commuting from home has become much more common for college students. In a recent national survey titled “How America Pays for College 2014” by the bank Sallie Mae, 54 percent of college students are now living at home. After considering the potentially huge cuts in cost, commuting seems like it should always be the right choice. However, just because it’s the right choice doesn’t mean people will feel good about it. In fact, I often see that commuting tends to be looked down upon by college students. Commuters may not hate living at home, but many probably think they would be happier if they didn’t and that’s because they are unable to see the silver lining.
The reason, I believe, commuting may have such a negative connotation among some students is because college life is one of the most romanticized ideals in our culture. For the youth, it symbolizes aspirations of freedom from the restrictions they always had, where not getting back home until the crack of dawn and trying things that were never allowed before finally become a possibility. For those past their college days, it becomes a source of longing for freedom from the responsibilities that ironically make some adults feel just as restricted as they did when they were children. College is a magical bubble where you’re not quite an adult and still not quite a kid and that gray area allows people to exist in a world where they can go to parties every weekend, be surrounded by friends at all times, go where they want and still be forgiven for dumb mistakes. All of these things come together to create that look of shame on a commuter’s face when you ask them where they live. It’s a look of bitterness born from the feeling of missing out on life and experiences like moving into a dorm hall full of strangers and meeting your future best friends there.
There are two key ingredients, in my mind, that all relationships require in order to be successful: proximity and time. As we get older, our ability to retain both of them in our relationships becomes more difficult and the intervals that people in our lives come and go become shorter and shorter. After seeing the same people until the last day of high school, our social environments drastically change with college. Those drastic changes start happening more often after graduation as people move and, slowly, good friends decay into friends into acquaintances. If you don’t believe me, just think about how quickly you and your high school friends forgot about each other once it was over. Unfortunately, it is all too natural to start to forget the people who you used to see daily for the ones that you now see. The good news is that perhaps there is an exception to this rule, and that is our families. For people who move away, their families exist as an echo vibrating through countless phone calls and texts each day, because no matter where they are, they are always thinking and worrying about them. Often times, a lot of us become anxious to be free of them in college because their worry had long ago become our burden, because it’s sometimes hard to recognize just how incredible it is to have anybody at all worry about you even when you haven’t seen them for months. The gift that commuters have been unknowingly blessed with is that they don’t have to go without seeing these people for long. Commuting may not have the thrill of living on campus but then again, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, thrills are only temporary. The comfort, security and sense of belonging a person gains from being close with their loved ones will be with them for the rest of their lives.