Last I wrote, I was wrapping up my adventures in the Dallas / Fort Worth area and was fixing to move to Houston for nursing school. Having grown up there, the Houston area is my home. At the end of July, I finally returned to reclaim my bedroom that otherwise sat empty outside of the holiday season. It had been roughly six years since the time I left for UTD and it felt a little strange to me that I would be living at my permanent residence for the duration of nursing school.
See, the fact that my new school, the University of Texas Health Science Center, is located right next to Main Street in Downtown Houston made the prospect of renting an apartment unfavorable. At the same time, my parents’ house is located in an area that would make for an easy commute. Staying with them as opposed to an expensive, crime-ridden area just made sense. Even then, because Houston traffic is unwieldy and the Downtown parking fares are killer, I opted for the route that most of the med-center regulars took: the Metro system.
The Houston Metro was one of the first indications to me about how things have changed since I last lived in the area. Of course I had seen the various stores dotting Highway 6 change over the years, but the Metro system felt more like an infrastructure change. It seemed that over the years, the Houston Metro had expanded considerably — buses now arrived every 15 minutes and the rail system was strategically interconnected with all of the hot-spots downtown. Owing to the large population of student commuters, there was even a system rolled out for students to get transit cards for reduced fares: $0.60 per bus ride and $0.20 for each rail line. Compared to the ~$20 a commuter wanting to park downtown was looking at daily, the choice was obvious.
Such is what my life became once school started — a morning commute to school by the Metro, typical student life during the day, and a comfortable home to come back to every night. Really, it is such a relaxing way to start the school day to begin my morning transport with the comfort of air conditioning, power outlets, and like-minded people going downtown to work/study — much better than arriving at school stressed because of traffic. At home, my parents are wonderful as well and basically give me free reign of the second floor (where my room is) because they know that I have gotten used to living by myself over the years.
Location changes aside, I also had to re-adjust myself to living with family again. When I last left the house, I was a high-schooler with no car and zero work experience. After completing undergrad and then some, along with having held three jobs, I returned an understandably different person; particularly during my time at UTD, I had grown in countless ways. As I returned, I was somewhat caught off guard to note that my parents’ general regard for me reflected my changes. They are still my parents of course and reserve the right to assert their authority when needed, but compared to 6 years ago, they trust my judgement with enough certainty to let me do my own thing. I can come and go from the house according to my own obligations and exercise my own separate routines from the rest of the household. Even their company has changed quite a bit, as we now have more substantial discussions. In particular, me being home after so long often prompts them to reflect on what life was like when they were newly married and were raising me. The shift in dynamic, in a way, sort of exemplifies how much they have come to value my thoughts as well.
And then, every so often, I will rummage through old boxes in my closet and find more remnants of my childhood. Old photographs from elementary school, forgotten sketches, toys that I traded with my brother, old birthday cards containing my parents’ blessings… small reminders of the things I prized and the mementos I used to value while growing up. I had become accustomed to this “grounding effect” when I would visit home during the holidays; living away from home tends to slowly skew one’s perspective over time. I have always valued this kind of opportunity for introspection.
We all know the type of person who is generally bad at explaining their thoughts and actions — the type of person who feels a certain way about something and cannot do anything but get irritated when questioned why. I don’t particularly find such qualities respectable so I make an effort to sort my thoughts and opinions frequently (though to be fair, I am pretty open-minded to begin with). Even so, I was still a little taken aback when my parents would sometimes point certain things out after having a chance to once again see my day to day activities. For example, I may be doing something a certain way because I developed a habit that had persisted through undergrad. My parents would see this and ask me why I was doing it that way when I could be doing it a different way. For a split-second I would feel chagrined, thinking to myself, “what are you talking about? This is how you do it!” But then I will realize the equal validity of their alternate approach.
The opposite, of course, is also true in the way that I can offer my parents new approaches to problems based on techniques that I have gathered from my own experiences. As I mentioned before, a lot has changed over the years — it just goes to show the extent of changes that education away from home can instill.
All in all, coupled with this new direction in my academic career, I really do think it a blessing that I ended up “coming home” during this period of rekindling. Not only has my return to school-life been made smoother, but I have also been given a chance to review my own values, habits, and ambitions as I start my new pursuit. Nursing school is off to a hopeful start with my score on the first Pathophysiology exam today being a 102%. I truly hope that this sets the tone for rest of my efforts — here’s to a wonderful school year.