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Leaving the nest for the first time

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Dear Ella,
I was filled with anxiety this past summer about going to university. I have always gone to the same private school. My parents raised me in the same community with the kids I grew up and went to school with.
Now, for the first time, I’ve left my home, my friends and my family, and have moved in with strangers in a dorm, in another city, on a huge campus where I know no one. Talk about being outside my comfort zone! Sure I have tons of new friends, but no one real. I find myself glued to my phone, texting all my old friends.
So with all these new friends, why do I feel so lonely and homesick? I can’t tell my parents, as they spent a fortune for me to be here and I insisted that this is what I wanted more than anything. I didn’t expect to feel this way.
Not Part of the Plan

Dear Not Part of the Plan,
First, know that what you are experiencing is normal. Unless you end up at a university with friends from high school, you are essentially starting over with a fresh slate. However, you need to realize you are not alone on this journey. Most of the students you are with are in exactly the same situation as you are.
This is all new and very overwhelming. It takes time for a new place to feel like home. Be proactive. Get out of your room. Hang out in common areas, or outside. Join a study group, which has the added bonus of enhancing your academic success. Find extra-curricular activities that are of interest to you and join. Explore your new campus and the area. Between classes and a social life, you have a lot to juggle. Take care of your body and mind. Maybe join a yoga class, or go hiking. Eat well and with others – make it social. Don’t have meals alone, or only with your roommate(s) in your dorm.
Once you put yourself out there with like-minded people, you will see how naturally relationships begin to evolve. Push yourself to take these first steps and the rest will fall into place.
Another helpful tip: put away your phone. Stop falling back on your texts, emails and social media accounts to find company. Look up from your phone and take it all in. This new world is yours. Enjoy it, as this is your time.


Dear Ella,
As a mother and wife, always having put myself last, this is the first year I feel free. My daughter, Jen, has a two-year-old and is pregnant. My son is in his last year of university. I volunteer on Mondays, play mah-jong on Tuesday, bridge on Wednesday, hairdresser and manicure every Thursday and household chores on Friday.
I’ve earned this time. So why do I feel resentful every time Jen needs help with my granddaughter and I have to cancel my plans? What kind of a grandmother doesn’t want to spend every moment with her grandchild? My friends brag about carpooling, babysitting, etc. After all these years of taking care of everyone else, is it so terrible that I want time for myself?
Done My Time

Dear Done My Time,
Your answer lies in the words “moderation” and “boundaries,” two things that need to be controlled by you.
I’m sure you love spending quality time with your granddaughter. You need to weigh your priorities and teach your family to weigh theirs.
Let Jen know that you are always there for her if she truly needs help, but make sure she understands what you are willing to accommodate. Establish boundaries. If she is not well and needs help, obviously you would not say no, but if she wants to lunch with her girlfriends and needs a sitter, that’s a different story.
Trust your instincts. You raised a family and know them best. It’s OK to put your needs right in there with everyone else’s.

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