The Fredricks

The Fredricks

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don't Dig Yourself in a Hole
Missing home isn't that bad.

It's not something that can be diagnosed, predicted or even avoided; it's not something that every college student even experiences; it's just something that I happened to struggle with during my first semester at The University of Texas at Austin. Homesickness. 

To most college students, homesickness isn't necessarily something experienced for long, even if at all, when they first move away from home. Most would expect the student who moved hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home to experience it more than anyone. But me? I was a measly 154 miles away from my family in Houston, Texas and I was miserable.

An easy two and a half hour drive can get you from Austin to Houston.
But the distance still caused me to feel anxious and constantly upset. (Source: Mia Fredricks)

I blame two things for why I experienced such severe homesickness my first semester of college, one of which I could not control and the other I could have handled better.

The first area of blame had to do with the relationship I had built with my family over the summer before I left for college. As highlighted in this blog, my family means the world to me and I did everything in my power to make my last definite summer at home count. There was no one truly at fault for this, but it's something I had to realize was out of my control. It's okay to miss your family after having spend 18 years of your life living with them; it's actually natural.

The only other thing I could blame for my homesickness was how frequently I chose to visit home during my first semester away. Most students are ecstatic about leaving home and being away from their family and starting fresh. I, however, found every excuse possible to come home. Doctors appointments, Houston Texans' games (we have season tickets so I came home all of the time), surprise visits— any chance I could get to come home I would take.

I mean, who wouldn't want to come home to spend time with a dog
as cute as mine? Way too tempting of an opportunity to miss. (Source: Mia Fredricks)
It didn't occur to me at the time but it makes sense now. Going home more was inevitably going to make my homesickness worse. I had to learn to limit myself to FaceTime, texting and phone calls in order to keep in touch with my family. No matter how much I wanted to be at home, the more I visited, the less I wanted to go back to Austin.

There was nothing wrong with how much I loved my family and being at home, but I wasn't letting myself grow or gain the experiences college had to offer. I was digging myself in a hole, relying on the comfort of my family rather than my new friends and experiences to help get me out. The one thing I learned from my homesickness experience is that you've got to do whatever you can to avoid digging that hole— schedule less trips home and accept that you're in college now and it's okay to just call your parents rather than be physically home.

College isn't meant to be a scary journey, forcing you to leave your family behind and grow. Instead, you're supposed to enjoy it, sharing your experiences with your family from afar but also treasuring the time when you can visit home... every once in a while. Your family is going to be there for you no matter what; being away from home won't change that.

My homesickness, although not unreasonable, could have been prevented or lessened had I let myself appreciate the new friends and families I was making while away. Don't get consumed in the idea that you have to visit home at all times possible. Find the time to grow at college while also staying present in your family's life, even if it's not your physical presence. This way, when you are home, your time together will mean even more to everyone. Think of it like this: you won't get sick of home or homesick.

Find the right reasons to visit home rather than going all of the time.
Above are a few of the pictures from my cousin's wedding this past weekend (a good reason to visit home!).
(Source: Mia Fredricks)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Make Time for Them

There is one thing I've learned since I've moved away from home—the importance of making time for your family…no matter what. All of my friends talk about how excited they are for their breaks because they get to go see all of their high school friends. Me? I’m excited for some late nights of family poker and stupid arguments that end with someone likely in tears.

Even when I’m away from home, I’ve realized that it’s crucial to take every chance I get to call my family. A simple, “Hi I love and miss you” text could make your mom’s day. Or maybe a phone call while you’re walking to class could put your dad in a better mood. Whatever it is, it needs to be something.  So below I’ve compiled a short list of the best ways to make your time together, and apart, worthwhile.          

1. Face time or FaceTime... whichever one it may be.
  • You know that lovely face in the mirror you see every morning when you wake up? Well your parents definitely know it (hello...they created it), and I can promise you that they miss it. So when you're home for a break, don't consume all of your time for your friends and binge-Netflixing. Organize a family brunch or game night. Your time together will be something your family will cherish even once you're back at college.
  • Not physically home? Make them feel like you are. A simple five-minute FaceTime or Skype call can change your parents' and your own mood, so why wouldn't you make the time to see them? Maybe even consider calling grandma and grandpa sometimes. It'll definitely make them happy too.
2. Go do something or tell them about something you did.
  • When you're home for break, don't waste every minute at home, around the TV or the dinner table. Make a list of fun activities and go do one of them as a family. The best memories come from the moments least expected.
  • "How was your day?" The question I always dreaded when I was younger because I had no desire to elaborate about my daily activities to my parents. So what. If you haven't realized by now, you are your parents' pride and joy. Chances are that their daily activities are much less interesting than yours; so entertain them by elaborating about your day every once and a while. I promise they want to hear about it.
Although competition always seems to cause problems in the family, we still insisted on
finding time to go bowling every once in a while to make my past summer at home more entertaining.
(Source: Michelle Fredricks)
3. Put down your phone... or pick it up.
  • It's simple. When you're with them, put down your phone. To them, they don't understand why you need to constantly stay updated with everyone else when you're with the most important people in your life–your family. 
  • On the contrary, pick up the phone if you're away. I promise that the few minutes you spend talking to your parents or siblings or other family members will be worth your time. And it matters to them so it should matter to you.
Main exception for phone use when you're with family: Selfies.
(Source: Reed Fredricks)
When you're in college, you'll realize one thing: your family isn't as lame as you thought. Yeah, they may love to embarrass you or give you a hard time, but that's what makes a family family. So accept their weirdness, express your own, and always make time for them. It'll make being away from home much easier.

Friday, March 14, 2014

My (not-so) Drama King

If you were to ask me if my 17-year-old brother, Reed, and I get along, I'd say "depends on the hour." We're your not-so-typical brother-sister combination, separated by a mere two-and-a-half years.

The competition started on Nov. 7, 1996... To be more exact, the day Reed was born. Ever since then, we've competed in everything, whether it be who received more attention, had more likes on a photo, was taller or could throw farther. And when someone didn't win, there would typically be a fair share of tears, yelling, or ridiculous excuses of why he or she lost and a rematch would then be in store.

Pictures capturing the essence of my early relationship with Reed. My thoughts below:
Top Left: "Can I drop him in the balls yet?"
Bottom Left: "Excuse me, Mom... I'm over here!"
Right: "HA! My pile is bigger than yours."
Source: Michelle Fredricks
As we grew older and (he) grew taller, the competitive spirit between us grew as well. Everything became some sort of argument about who was right and who was wrong. But there was something that never changed– our unconditional love for each other. No matter how much he frustrates me with his complaining or excuses, he's still my baby brother.

So as he was on his way home from baseball practice yesterday and I could hear him through the phone to my mother complaining about the pain in his chest,  I sat there and rolled my eyes thinking, "here comes drama king." My mother told me to not act so ignorant when he got home, but that I was correct in thinking he was probably being a little overdramatic about his allergies. Oh how we were so wrong.

Four hours later, I sat in the emergency room with my brother and family as they prepared him to be transported to St. Luke's hospital (in Houston). The doctors said he had a Pneumothorax, which is a big word for a small hole between his chest and lungs allowing air to emit into his chest cavity. They wanted to observe him overnight at the hospital for precautionary reasons—it's good thing they did.

Reed in his hospital gown at the ER, suggesting that he was "a-okay."
Source: Mia Fredricks

Twenty-four hours later and I'm back at home as my mom and brother prepare for their second night at St. Luke's. Reed has been hooked up to two IVs, spent some time in the ICU, gone through a bronchoscopy and esophagram test, and is hoping to be released tomorrow morning. The doctors have determined he has a serious case of bronchitis, which my family hadn't even considered. Luckily Reed realized something was wrong after diving for some balls at baseball practice yesterday. Without his toughness to dive in practice then, we may have never realized the seriousness of the bronchial infection he has. The boy who I always call a drama king ended up being a strong, young man who has battled through a very long and hard twenty-four hours. 

This young man is someone I am proud to call my brother. Even through all of the tears and fighting and anger, I wouldn't trade our relationship for any other brother-sister relationship I've seen. I'm just glad I was on spring break to be by his side. 

Reed "straight chillin'" during his respiratory treatment, earlier today.
Source: Mia Fredricks

Although we are separated now because I'm in college, the most rewarding feeling is when I come home knowing he's thrilled just to see me. And every time I return, I love seeing how much he's grown into the not-so drama king he is today. 

You may be a goofball, with the maturity of a 10-year-old, but I'm proud to call you my brother, Reedo. Your strength amazes me. I love you.

Some of the happier moments between Reed and me.
Bottom: Reed not wanting me to go back to college after winter break.
Source: Mia Fredricks

Monday, March 3, 2014

College has got nothing on us

What is family? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "family" is defined as:
"a group of individuals living under one roof and usually one head."
*Note: there were other definitions but none of which satisfied my personal definition of family.
Excuse me. I object. This definition implies that my family is not  my mother, father and brother whom live in Houston; instead, my family consists of the 60 girls with whom I live in a sorority house. False.
Now, I know I live in a beautiful sorority house where I have a wonderful house mother, house "dads" and sorority sisters. But, respectively, these people didn't birth me, teach me how to throw a baseball, or bug me just in order to get under my skin. Nothing will change whom I call my real family. Enter Brent, Michelle and Reed. My family. A little over a year and a half ago, I packed up my room, cleared my closet, and begun my first journey without them - college.
The typical post-graduation picture with the family. From left to right: Brent, Mia, Michelle, Reed.
Source: Mia Fredricks
As the oldest child, none of us knew what to expect. There were countless nights where my mom and I teased each other about how we would be fine without each other's physical presence; these nights would end in many tears and planning how often we would call each other. My dad and I didn't talk much about it because I knew we'd both be miserable if we did. I mean, daddy's little girl was leaving him AND I was leaving him alone with my hyper brother and stressed mother (oy vey). My brother definitely didn't act too upset about it. He was going to have all of the attention he had always desired with me gone.
I spent the summer before I left for college in a different way than most of my friends. Rather than hanging out with all of the friends I'd be leaving, I spent time at home, strengthening my relationship with my family. There were nights of fun and laughter; instances of pure anger and frustration; times of fear of moving away. More than anything, my summer was filled with a lot happy memories, ones that would make leaving even harder.
Fourth of July was spent on the golf course as a family. I became designated golf-cart driver by hole 13.
Source: Mia Fredricks
Fast forward to move-in day. Typical family dynamic had come out. My poor roommate and her family probably thought we were crazy. My mom was bouncing from one task to another, constantly adding things to the to-buy list. My dad was already tired of doing all of the manual work and was counting the hours until he could sit down. Oh, and my brother and I were surprise.
With all of the craze, we forgot to stop worrying and enjoy our last few hours together. In a few hours, we'd no longer be living together. In a few hours, according to Merriam-Webster, we'd be a split family. So when it came time for me to say goodbye, reality hit us hard.
I hugged Reed first as my eyes began to water. "Don't make their lives too hard," I said as we tried to stay chill. Cue the tears. My dad had put his sunglasses on, to hide the fact he too was crying. We hugged and I began to fall apart. "I love you and I'll always be daddy's little girl." Mom was last and by then there was no hiding my fear of their departure. "It's going to be okay, honey. We're always with you," she said.
Saying goodbye was definitely the hardest part, but I realized things wouldn't be too bad when I got a call from my mom an hour after they left. "Just calling to check in!" she exclaimed. From then I knew that even though we weren't in the same home anymore, nevertheless, the same city, we were still a strong family and we'd be alright.
According to me, family is a "group of individuals who love each other, unconditionally, and are always close at matter the physical distance between them." My journey had just begun but my family was going to be with me every step of the way, still cheering me on, bugging me to death, and caring for me no matter what. Besides, college had nothing on us - we're too strong to be broken.
The whole family at my sorority's parents' weekend a few months into my first semester at college (still smiling).
Source: Mia Fredricks