82: Family Matters

82: Family Matters

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Family Matters

In time of test, family is best.

~Burmese Proverb

For me, getting into college was the easiest step. I knew that I had the GPA, the SAT scores, the activities, and the winning essay to get me in. It was once I got to New York City and entered my dream school, New York University, that I was presented with the biggest challenge.

See, I was born and raised in a small town (in the sense of people, not of land) in southwestern Pennsylvania where any day of the week there are horses trotting alongside tractors and people make eye contact and smile (and not because they are crazy or are trying to hit on you). Since my freshman year of high school, I knew that I wanted to go to school for journalism in a city, but I always thought that it would be in Pittsburgh. All of a sudden, I became restless at the thought of staying in Pittsburgh and sticking to what I had known my entire life.

After hours of researching cities (Chicago? Phoenix? New York?), I decided that New York was the place for me, having only visited the city once before. The summer before my senior year, I set up a trip to visit Fordham and the ultra-expensive NYU and from the moment I set foot in one of NYU’s buildings (because there really isn’t a campus), I knew that this was the place I wanted to be indebted to for the rest of my life.

There were people who doubted me along the way. I remember very distinctly at my graduation party all of my naysayer relatives who quipped, “New York City? Why would you want to go to school there?” And my honest reply, “Why wouldn’t you?” My uncle even told me that I would never make it more than two months in the city. I attribute the fact that I’m in my junior year and happily expecting to graduate from here to this dare that he set out for me, but I admit that it wasn’t always easy along the way.

Within the first month, I was in tears when I called home, and part of it was the stress of the city. I couldn’t handle the fast pace; the people were so different; the classes were all required; and my roommates were a disaster. I swear that universities place you with whomever they feel you will get along with worst. My family, though they were miles away, pushed me to find better, to do better for myself.

I got involved. I fixed up my resume and found a job on campus. I joined clubs. I found friends who were interested in the same things as me — exploring one of the greatest cities in the world. And this worked well until my second year, when at the beginning, I fell into the same rut and the same issues popped up again. My family became the constant in my life that I relied on to make it through the weeks until I could be at home again. I remember calling home and saying, “Only a month until I’m home again. Only two weeks until I’m home again. I’ll be home tomorrow!”

And then, during the winter break sophomore year, it clicked for me. I missed the camaraderie of my house. I missed the feel of a home, with people who loved you waiting inside when you walked in the door. But I knew deep in my heart that even miles away, my family would always be there — always cheering me on when my friends and I weren’t talking or the critiques were too tough to handle, telling me stories about what happened in their day. I still have a hard time understanding it when people will brush off the fact that their parents want to talk to them and ignore the phone call. I’d drop almost anything to talk to my family.

My junior year, the sadness never started. I am happier and more successful than I ever imagined I would be. One of the first assignments for my journalism class was to write about the place I loved most, the place I couldn’t wait to visit — my family dinner table. But I didn’t write it as that freshman and sophomore who needed family contact like she needed air. I wrote about a place full of memories and full of love. It can take a long time to get to that place where you’re happy with yourself, especially away from everything you know, but once you get there, you try to hold onto it for as long as possible.

~Katie Jakub

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