Having been through three years of boarding school and a year and a half of college, I’ve identified two types of people: people who constantly stay in touch with their parents, and people who don’t. In extreme cases, I’ve heard that some of my friends’ parents didn’t even know whether their sons or daughters took their SATs. On the other end of the spectrum, some of my friends tell their parents every aspect of their lives – from academic challenges to relationship problems. I’m definitely the type that assumes my parents are doing fine if they don’t contact me first, and usually I presume they’ll assume the same for me. I haven’t given much thought to my lack of contact with my parents.
Just a couple days ago, my mom called me to ask about a cut I got on my finger. It was around 2 p.m. here – but 4 a.m. in Korea, where she lives. In her semi-drowsy voice, she asked me whether my finger was okay. Sitting at the library, I told her that I had gone to the health center so it should be fine. We then talked about a class that I was struggling in earlier in the quarter (which, low-key, is still a struggle). The last time I talked to her for more than three minutes was weeks ago when I ranted about the math class I didn’t understand anything in, so I had to fill her in with how the class was progressively getting better. After a short conversation about my life, she began to talk about how my dad and my brother were doing. And thus began our one-hour phone call.
Our hour-long conversation opened the doors for an exchange of our deepest troubles. I learned that all of my family members were under an immense amount of pressure – the pressure that I haven’t noticed for so long, and the weight of which I didn’t understand. I vaguely knew that they were stressed. My dad was working restlessly, and my brother was studying non-stop. From my mom’s tone, I also noticed how stressed she was. She seemed to be embracing their burdens as her own. I listened carefully, hoping the phone call could be a chance for her to fly away from her concerns. Although we began with rants on the challenges we were facing, we eventually moved on to lighter topics, such as cooking. Once in a while when I cooked, which was pretty rare, I sent her a photo to assure her that I wasn't living off of instant noodles and Chipotle. Every time, she would send me one of her plethora of happy emojis. She asked if it is difficult living off-campus. I told her it was a lot of fun – so much fun that I was struggling to focus on studying. It was challenging to translate my seven weeks of sophomore fall experiences into a short phone call, but I hoped the word “fine” would assure her that I’m doing well.
“Mom, I’m in the elevator so I have to hang up,” I said, when it had been over an hour and I had arrived back at my apartment.
“Oh sorry, stay well,” she apologized hastily and ended the phone call.
“You, too,” I added, thinking she had nothing to apologize for.
Sometimes I realize I’m selfish – in the sense that I’m oblivious to my surroundings. When I first left home for boarding school, I thought I took a huge step toward being a responsible, independent human being. All of a sudden I had to manage my own life, from managing money to organizing my room to handling my friendships. I suppose my physical distance away from my family made me capable of taking care of myself.
Yet that conversation made me realize how much support and care lie under my “independent” life at college. Coming to college often provides people the first glimpse of being an “independent” individual. Yet leaving home and being independent doesn’t only mean taking good care of myself, but also caring about other people who care about me.
Since high school, my parents sometimes got worried when I didn’t reply to them quickly. It was only when they did worry that would I finally reply to their messages. They always seemed happy and relieved when I let him know how I was doing. Yet I was never the type of person who would contact my parents voluntarily or even reply to my parents’ texts swiftly. Being openly appreciative of the discrete support I have been receiving all this time, assuring them that I’m doing well and looking after their concerns as they do for me – I believe those are the responsibilities that independence entails, and I aspire to become mature enough to do all three.