Why living at home with my family throughout university did not hinder my independence but gave me something much better
When I was deciding where to go for university there was a lot of talk about independence and moving away from home and basically living the “uni life” without the help of your parents and being more independent. A lot of my friends were excited to leave Cambridge and go somewhere else to explore a different surrounding and see how well they can cope being away from home. At one point, I also felt the need to go explore another place too and get away from home for a bit just to see what happens (I mean isn’t that what every college student wish for?)
In the middle of my final year of A-Levels, my mum announced that we are going to have another person in our family because she is pregnant. I was of course very happy for her and having another family member is an exciting thing so my parents thought that it would be a good idea for me to just stay in Cambridge and help them look after the baby. I wasn’t really sure what to say or think. When I told my friends that I might be staying in Cambridge for my university, it was definitely a bag of mixed reactions. Some of them understood that its the best thing to do as having a new member of the family is an adventure in itself but most of them had doubts about how my future will turn out. People would raise their eyebrows like I’m a crazy person and those who had some opinions to say expressed it loud and clear. Many people would tell me: “It’s your decision, but if it was me I wouldn’t stay”, “Cambridge is a nice place but I’m going, to be honest, your university is not the best [compared to mine]”, “Why do you need to take care of the baby? It’s your parent’s child!” or “It’s your life, Trisha. You shouldn’t let your parents control what you should do”. Those doubts made me start to think of all the bad things that could happen if I did stay in Cambridge to study. But even though I was worried, my gut was telling me to stay, so I did.
After the three years at university and finally having time to reflect on the meaning of independence, I really believe I made the right decision for me. Some people might think that it was a forced decision and my parents made me stay but the reason I stayed wasn’t for them, it was for me. If I walked away and went to live in another city or town, I think I would have been very sad, especially after spending nearly 7 months with my baby sister, Bea. I got to know her and if I pictured myself somewhere else and not had gotten the chance to see her grow into the cheeky and cute 3-year-old she is now, I really would have regretted it. Many people still raise their eyebrows at me even now and still believe that I just let my parents “control” me. People cannot seem to process the fact that even if I chose to continue living with my family, my independence wasn’t hindered in any way. I was the one who chose my degree, I was the one who managed my finances and sorted out documents that were related to university and even though I was still eating and living under my parent’s roof, I learnt that independence is not about going on an adventure alone. Independence for me means that I get to choose the adventures I discover and I get to decide the people that become part of that adventure, in this case, my family.
Being independent means recognising and learning skills that you need in life that you can use when life needs you to survive. Yes, independence also means not having to be reliant on other people like your family- but being with my family has made me stronger than ever as a person, a sister and a daughter. I got to make endless memories filled with arguments and laughter that going to another place would have taken away from me. It made me value my family more because no matter how much we fight or make fun of each other, we really love each other and nothing can replace family. So, I didn’t sacrifice independence and even if you think I did, you would be mistaken because I learnt that happiness comes from the simplest of things, from the people who are the closest to you, your family and that is something no one (no matter how you say you were right or I would have regretted it) can take away from me.