The holiday season is usually associated with spending quality time with family. The festive dinners and joyful celebrations, regardless of religious affiliations, is the perfect forum for enjoying the company of our loved ones. My experience during the winter break throughout my upbringing was consistent; I had always accompanied my family on a yearly migration to Florida during the cold December days.
As a child, this vacation was always the light at the end of the tunnel. During those four grueling months of enduring fractions and colouring, two weeks without the burden of school was a beacon of hope and a reassurance that there is a way to enjoy life after grade two.
However, as I grew up, my perspective began to change. Throughout high school, spending time with my family in general was no longer fun, but an expectation. With my new and improved hormone-induced attitude, I began to resent the forthcoming December leisure period. These were weeks during which, instead of seeing my cool, new and very important friends, I was being forced into a torturous cycle of eat and sleep, rinse and repeat, for 14 days in a row. It was shocking that child services did not make me their top priority.
This very unappreciative and selfish outlook only manifested during my first year of university. With the introduction of res life, parties and all that accompanies a cliché freshman year, going on a family vacation was the least of my concerns. Nevertheless, Dec. 20, there I was in the sky on route to the sunshine state.
My gloomy and ungrateful attitude transcended into my actions and, to say the least, I was no joy to be around. That is why this year, when deciding on vacation plans, my parents gave me the option to opt out of our 19-year tradition and do my own thing. I took them up on their offer and made arrangements to travel to New York City, my favourite place in the world, with two of my very close friends.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this trip and take pride that I was successfully responsible for ensuring that all the travel arrangements were in order, the independence was not as rewarding as I had thought it would be. Something felt missing, and it was this experience that initiated some necessary self-reflection.
In my opinion, I believe that our attitude towards family is very telling of our current stage in life. For me, at least, the period when I thoroughly enjoyed these yearly trips was when I was young, naïve, but appreciative. It was a time where my mom and dad where not just authority figures, but my friends as well. But after being thrust into the world of secondary education, my family seemed to loose that status.
It was not ‘cool’ to hang out with your family, and my peers became the most important and influential people in the world. This separation that was forming between my family and myself was magnified after being given the opportunity to live in a separate location. Now I had complete independence where I could do whatever I pleased without fearing their consequences.
However, something has begun to change in my second year at McMaster. Since the initial joy of freedom has now subsided, I am now beginning to change my outlook on life. I no longer yearn to party and be surrounded by peers, but rather take pleasure from participating in some alone time. A year ago, if you were to tell me I would be watching an old movie on a Saturday night, I wouldn’t have believed you, and I would have returned to hanging out with my friends. Although I love my friends, I have now begun to experience an appreciation for a different type of independence; I am now enjoying independence from a seemingly teenage, rebellious social life.
Even though I have been reverting back to my childhood phase of viewing my family as my friends, I believe this is the most mature relationship I have ever formed.
This is a new stage in my life and I speculate that I am not the only one having this experience. In my opinion, at some point during their university lives, many Mac students will get bored of a certain lifestyle, whether it be partying or something else, and begin to realize the important things in life might not be just their friends.
So I pose this question to you: Did your winter break plans reflect your current life stage?