A couple of nights ago, one of my sisters sent me and another one of my sisters a TikTok. The clip showed a woman in her mid-20s holding a glass of wine, with emotional music in the background and a caption that read, “reminiscing with your siblings on memories of growing up together.” The group chat flooded with sad emojis and wistful sentiments. I responded “lol” because I’m their older brother. They both disliked the message.
Despite my ambivalence in the group chat with my sisters, the video got to me. They sent it late at night, and as I laid in bed, nostalgia swept through me. I reflected on how I would likely never again live with the people who I spent the first 19 years of my life with.
When we live with people, it’s easy to take their presence for granted. Bonding and communication are effortless. We update each other on our lives while toasting bagels for breakfast and recap the day during evening dish duty. The people we live with know about the good book we’re reading and the tooth that’s been bothering us for the past couple days. They tag along to the movie we’re seeing and show up to our hockey game because we mentioned it last week. Housemates are intimately involved in each other’s lives by association, with minimal effort from either side.
When we leave our families for college, the ease with which we previously communicated and interacted evaporates. After the blur of moving in and getting settled into classes, you get on the phone with your parents and discover they no longer know your friends’ names or the classes you’re taking. Particularly if they lead busy lives or have other kids to worry about, it’s hard for us to keep abreast of our families’ lives and for them to keep track of ours.
Staying connected with family is more challenging for some Cornell students than others. Emily Muniz ’22 isn’t able to visit her family in California as frequently as other students who are from the East Coast. “I struggle a little when other people are able to see their parents all the time,” says Muniz. “But that just makes going home all the more special.”
Xavier Martinez ’23, a Texas native, faces the same challenge as Emily, but with the added hurdle of trying to keep in touch without the benefit of social media. “I have found it increasingly hard to keep up with what’s going on with both my immediate and extended family because I am off social media,” explains Martinez. “Communication and consistency are key.”
Even for students who are lucky enough to have family nearby, it’s easy to take our relationships with them for granted. After all, we’ve never had to try very hard to maintain our closeness with them. They know we care for them and we know they care for us. But at a certain point, if we slip in our communication too much, that self-evident truth begins to lack the action that props it up. Emily Muniz has found that it’s “important to reach out to family through a little text or something whenever [she’s] thinking of them or [she] sees something that remind [her] of them, because [she] knows they know [she] loves them, but everyone appreciates a little out-of-the-blue reminder that they’re on someone’s mind.”
Those little texts to family, along with other communication, come more frequently when we first move away from home. We miss them. But as we become more comfortable on our own and find other support networks in our own communities, the calls dwindle. I noticed this in myself. I don’t call home nearly as much as I did in my first year of college. That realization made me question whether my calls home are more transactional than I had thought. Was I only calling because I felt homesick, and not to maintain my connections with my family members? The line of thinking unsettled me.
The essential nature of our relationships with our family members is of changing obligations. Before we moved away, we never needed much effort to be close with them. Now we do. For most of us, our family will be constants in our lives. Communities will change, hobbies will be forgotten and friends will come and go. But blood is thicker than any of those things. Until we find our significant others, if we ever do, they will be the people who know us best. At some point in the blur of prelims and fun here at Cornell, I had forgotten that mantra, the one my mom told my sisters and I time and time again during our childhood.
So, two weekends ago, when my parents called me and asked me to come with them to my little sister’s family weekend at Miami University in Ohio, I hopped in my car and drove to meet them in Pennsylvania. I sat in the car for over twenty hours that weekend. I skipped a required field trip for my biology class, got behind on work and missed some fun plans I had made with friends. But I know I won’t be thinking about that field trip to Oneida Lake in twenty years. I’ll be sitting around a table with my three sisters and a glass of wine, reminiscing on memories of growing up together.
Christian Baran is a senior in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] Honestly runs alternate Fridays this semester.