Getting old isn’t just about having random aches and pains, paying taxes, and watching the world change around you. For some of us, it’s about moving away from home and becoming our own person. This generally becomes a more pertinent fact when it comes to attending college: We have the room to exist as our own people outside of our family. Here, we’re given the opportunity to explore our interests, passions, life goals, relationships, and most importantly, ourselves. Growing up and becoming more independent can often be daunting; it’s not always easy to answer questions like “Who am I?” or “What do I want to do with my life?”

I have recently come to a realization: While I would normally be going back home for the holidays, I’ll instead be staying up here for most of winter break this year. It’s weird, and I don’t really know how to feel about it. Many others in this same situation may harbor similar feelings to mine, since for many, their family’s support is one of the only constants in a life that is otherwise filled with uncertainty and constant change.

So, what’s the point of going against my norm and not going home? Well, it’s to make sure that I have the space to develop as an individual. During this winter break, I’ll be engaging in some activities that I would otherwise not have the opportunity to.

For instance, this year, I’ll be celebrating Christmas for the first time with my girlfriend. I was raised Jewish and have thus never celebrated Christmas before. Granted, I’m more interested in the cultural aspects of the holiday as opposed to the religious ones, but I’ve always been fascinated by how different people celebrate their respective holidays. Also, I’ve only celebrated New Year’s Eve with my family and/or family friends, but never exclusively with my own friends. This year, I’ll be spending my New Year’s Eve with my good friends back home instead of my family.

My decision to stay in Rochester for most of the semester will not only be an opportunity for me to develop my individuality, but it will also provide me with the time and space necessary to understand my goals on a deeper level. Since I’m somehow already a junior, I have had to think more about what I wanted to do after I graduated from UR: Throughout the past few years, I have debated whether or not to apply for medical school and if I should take a gap year in between my undergraduate education and medical school. Being more independent during this winter break will allow me to explore my options and establish more connections with doctors so that I may have a better idea about where my intended pursuit of a medical degree will take me, or if that’s even what I want. More importantly, it will give me time to deal with my burnout from this semester.

Changes and growing up are unavoidable. It doesn’t matter if they are “good” or “bad;” they are going to happen regardless. The best thing to do is to try to get something out of them. Have some fun before you start getting random aches and pains and have to pay taxes.

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