Although we usually think of double lives as glamorous things reserved for the likes of Batman and Hannah Montana, the truth is that people leading double lives are far more common than you might think. In fact, there’s a high probability that you are one of them.
I’m talking about college students, whose lives often involve a considerable, yet seldom discussed, amount of role switching. Granted, many colleges and universities, including Tufts, have some kind of service intended to help freshmen have an easier time adjusting to college life. Unfortunately, there are no resources geared towards helping college students make the reverse transition.
For example, I’ve heard from many students who say that returning home for winter break is a frustrating experience, because their parents and friends from home expect them to behave exactly as they did before leaving for college. For instance, parents still impose curfews, even though they know that college students have complete freedom while on campus. They often have no consideration for the fact that it is often exceedingly difficult to alter your code of conduct at the drop of a hat. Similarly, it can also be a challenge to adjust to a new schedule and new responsibilities over the break, even if that schedule and those responsibilities consist of nothing more than lying in bed and watching Netflix. I spent some of my break that way, and although I was grateful for the chance to relax, I also sometimes felt bored, listless, and purposeless. When winter break ended, I was genuinely excited for classes to resume so that I could feel a sense of urgency again.
But unfortunately, coming back to campus does not necessarily make it any easier to reconcile the different lives that many college students lead. College is supposed to be an all consuming, all encompassing experience that is as much a lifestyle as it is an education. That makes it hard to fit things into your day and your week that aren’t necessarily part of college. Things like video chatting with a friend from home, calling your parents, or leaving campus to have brunch with a relative who is in town can all seem strangely out of place and even incongruous with the rest of your life.
This situation becomes even more difficult in the case of long-distance relationships. When a huge part of your life is miles away, how can you be expected to feel that your life on campus is a full one? In some ways, it isn’t and never can be, because no matter how much fun you’re having on campus, some part of you will probably always feel that you’d rather be with your significant other. But at the same time, if you are spending the weekend with your significant other, you’ll wonder what you’re missing on campus, and probably experience some FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. Your sense of FOMO might even be strong enough to stop you from fully enjoying your visit with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
What, then, can be done to ensure that students are able to enjoy the lives they’ve built on campus while simultaneously attending to the parts of their lives that aren’t part of the campus bubble? Truly, I’m not sure, but I do believe that the ideal solution must have something to do with balance and positive thinking. Neglecting one important facet of our lives is almost never a good idea; people will inevitably feel hurt and interpersonal relationships may be damaged. But distributing time evenly is not enough. Once we decide to allot a certain amount of our time to a certain person or group of people, we must try to feel grateful for the people around us, even if we would rather be somewhere else. As the popular saying goes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. As for me, I have no desire to test that theory. There’s nothing and no one in my life whom I would be willing to lose.