I Put a Thousand Miles Between My Parents and Myself


Sometimes college students go into college with the idea that they have successfully run away from home. What some of us don’t realize is that we had nothing to run away from.

So here’s my story: I am an only child and I come from a Latino family. That sentence alone carries a lot of weight with it. Latino families do not move far away from each other. I saw that in my own family. My cousins, who now have their own kids, still live with their parents. I love my cousins, but looking at their lives frightened me. Did I have to follow the same pattern: high school and factory job? Then find myself a girl so I could have kids? I feared all of this.

My parents have been in this country for around thirty years. My father can kind of speak and read English. My mother cannot read, write, or speak English. They both can kind of read and write in Spanish. I took care of all the paperwork. I dealt with anything that had English in it. I took care of income taxes, bills and any medical or school paperwork. I got fed up with this situation, and more importantly, I got scared. Was I expected to stay home and do this forever? I am an only child. Who else would do it?

I hated all of this. I did everything I could to stop it from happening. I worked hard in high school. I got into college. I left Chicago. I left my parents behind. I left my family. I ran away from that pre-destined life.

I loved my first semester of college. I enjoyed my classes. I enjoyed Maine. I enjoyed the freedom. And I still do.

More importantly, I did not think about home. My parents called — and still do — every Sunday. We talk…for a minute, maybe two. Small talk. “How’s the weather over there?” “How’s work/school/Chicago/Maine?” I basically cut off all communication with home. I went back home during winter break for only two weeks. I went out with an old friend and a college friend. I barely saw my parents.

I haven’t been back to Chicago since January 3, 2013.

Being away from home for so long has given me time to reflect. Why did I run away? Why did I make every effort to forget home? I tried helping my parents deal with our separation by ignoring them. I figured having as little communication as possible with them would help them get used to not having me around. They would eventually figure things out without me.

Where am I going with this long story? My argument goes back to the question I posed in the title of this blog. The problem did not have to do with helping my parents deal with the separation. The question should have been: how do I deal with it? I think that every college student should stop and think about this. Many of us cannot wait to leave home for whatever reason. You know my reasons. But do they make sense? What was I running away from?

My parents love me. I have always known this, but college has helped me rediscover this. They are okay with me being at Bowdoin College. They showed me that when they took me out of a public school in fourth grade and invested in a parochial school. They reminded me of it when they stood at my side as I entered one of the top private high schools in Chicago with a scholarship. They wished me the best of luck when I graduated. They loved me when they dropped me off at Bowdoin. They call me every week. What other reminders did I need?! The future I had feared did not exist. My parents had already taken care of that. I just could not see that.

So how do you actually help your parents adjust to the reality that you are a thousand miles away? You talk to them about your life when they call. You let them know you are grateful for what they have done for you. Let them know you are having a great time and that will help them feel happy for you. How do you deal with the separation? You do the same thing.

— by Miguel Aviles, Quest Scholar, Bowdoin ’16

This post was originally published on 10/14/13 on the Quest Scholars Network blog.