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Authentic Eagles: Caroline Kohler On Home

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our struggles in the constant quest to appear perfect. Embracing our truths can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials and tribulations of being one’s authentic self at BC.

Caroline Kohler, A&S ’14

Four years ago almost to the week I put down my five hundred dollar deposit at Boston College.  I was ready to leave Chicago and go to college.  Leading up to the evening when I hit the submit button on the Boston College deposit page, I seriously struggled with where I should spend the next four years.  I was down to St. Louis University and BC.  SLU was a convenient five-hour drive from Chicago.  BC was not.  It was an exhausting twenty-hour car ride or a two and a half hour flight–anything but convenient, but it was far.  At that point in my life, and in many moments since, I relished the distance.  I had honestly only kept SLU on the table because it meant I could go home when I was needed, when things started to get tough.  BC eliminated that option completely.

My home life is different in a unique sort of way and has been since as far back as I can remember.  I come from a loving home, but there is hurt.  I come from a supportive home, but there is judgment.  I come from a good home, but it has its fair share of bad.  My mom suffers from mental illness and has since I was little.  She is simultaneously one of my biggest inspirations and my greatest hurdle in life.  Growing up, I struggled tremendously with her mood swings and unreasonableness.  It just never seemed fair to me that someone who was so unpredictable and irrational dictated my life.  I tried to make sense of it all–why she didn’t take me prom dress shopping or why I could never remember the last time she genuinely told me she loved me–and I would always give up, defeated.  I was tired of having a seemingly endless amount of questions about my home life that never seemed to be addressed with any adequate answers.  I was tired of picking up the pieces she would let fall apart.  I was tired of being tired about things I couldn’t control.

And so I opted out.  I went to BC and cut all contact with my mom.  I ran, didn’t look back, and used college as my excuse to remove myself from my home.  I left my siblings to fend for themselves, and I told myself that my decision to leave was the right choice.  I refused to see the selfish motives that pushed me to choose BC because I told myself that it was finally my time to make my life about what I wanted.  Freshman year, I would call home one day a week to make sure everything was still somewhat okay and then push it all out of my mind of my mind for the other six days of the week.  I cared about how my family was weathering, but I was scared that if I got too involved I would stop living my life and would fall back into the shadow of my mom again.

So I continued most of freshman year keeping my home life on the back burner.  I thought that physically leaving meant that I could check the problems and struggles that I associated with home at my front door.  I was wrong.  Over the past four years, I have come to realize that while I have stationed myself a thousand miles away from my home and my mom, I will carry the hurt and resentment stemming from her with me everywhere.  It will always be a part of me because my mom, her struggles–and in many ways mine as well–will always be a part of me.

I no longer run from my home, my mom, and the struggles that permeate those two things.  I have gone home for every summer and most of my breaks throughout college because I don’t want to remove myself from my home anymore.  I love my family.  I love spending time with my dad and my siblings, and, on the good days, I even really love spending time with my mom.  Some of my fondest life memories include her and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I love every aspect of my home life, flaws and all, with every fiber of my being, and now see my challenges as sources of strength rather than obstacles that need to be neatly addressed.  I’ve learned life is messy and that’s okay.

I see the relationships my friends have with their moms and I know now that I will likely never have that.  My mom will never call me to see how my day is going or send me care packages in the mail.  She will never count down the days until I return home for a break or help me pick out my suit for a future job interview.  She has missed several important events in my life and will probably miss many more milestones in the years to come.  And while I may never forgive her for a lot of things, I know that all of this–the person she is, the struggles I’ve faced, the hurt–is not her fault.  She never wanted this, and I know that now.

I will be the first person to say that life is hard.  There are many days that I still find myself returning back to my childhood wish that my mom would be the loving, supportive best friend I always wanted.  But I know now that just because that wish may never become a reality doesn’t mean that I can’t be invested in my home and my mom, it just means I have to temper my expectations.

All routes for me lead back to home.  While at one point in my life I desired nothing more than being as far away from it as possible, I now understand that I can take myself out of my home, but I will never be able to take my home out of me.  My home life is filled with hurt, neglect, and sadness, but it is also filled with love, joy, and an abundance of blessings.  People have asked me why I choose to go home every summer and throw myself back into the chaos that consumes my home life.  My answer is simple: I can’t imagine doing anything else.  Struggles, pain, and resentment aside, I love where I come from.

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