Why Parents and Family Weekend felt so Bittersweet

Like many here at Penn State, I was extremely excited for my parents to visit me for Parents Weekend this year. I hadn’t seen them in about a month and I thought that my time with them would feel like a breath of fresh air in comparison to my sometimes monotonous weeks of work and studying.

I should have known to lower my expectations the moment I was told I had a midterm, an essay and some homework due on the Monday immediately following the weekend. I tried to plan ahead and be proactive in getting my work done before the weekend, but of course it was not enough. So, I went into the weekend pushing all the work and stress to the back of my mind so that I could fully enjoy my time with my parents.

And I did manage to enjoy myself… mostly.

I was so happy to see them again and it was utterly refreshing being around people that fully know me and allow me to be myself. But I couldn’t help but feel guilty when my mind so much as inched towards thoughts of the notes I had to re-read for my exam, the edits I had to make on my essay, the dirty dishes I had to clean and the infinite, infinite, to-do list of pesky tasks and homework awaiting me back at my dorm.

The truth is that for me, living in the same place I go to school has completely destroyed any semblance of a barrier between my brain’s perceptions of productivity and self-care. I say this despite having learned remotely for nearly the last two years. The difference between learning at home during the pandemic and living on a college campus and attending classes is that I am alone here and the homework is not only more substantial, but more important.

I am alone and I have the overwhelming freedom of choosing what to do with my time. This has made me restless and (unsurprisingly) more neurotic in the one thing I do know I have to do — work.

Over the past two months of college, I had slowly come to this realization, but Parents Weekend was what really drove it into my head. Thankfully, the awareness of the realization made it easier for me to stay present and enjoy myself with them.

Photo by Eden, Janine, and Jim distributed under CC BY 2.0.

The realization led me to think about something deeper. I have this fear that I am now more removed from my parents than ever and that they care less about what I have to say because the things I do here in State College do not have anything directly to do with them.

Frankly speaking, with a clear mind, I can easily say that this line of thinking is illogical and unreasonable considering how much I love my parents and how much they love me. But isn’t it reasonable, or even obvious, to worry that a physical distance between you and the people you love will cause a disconnect?

Maybe it’s just me, and maybe all of this is just a meaningless and rambling manifestation of me overthinking the events of two days. But one thing we can mostly agree on, is that watching our parents drive away while we stay put, watching as they exit our lines of sight… hurts.

The knowledge that everything good comes to an end is what truly sours Parents and Family weekend.

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