The Freshman Files: Cutting the Cord

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What does it really mean to “cut the cord”?

My first few days at school I met Zhaku and Kris, two freshmen from Albania who came to Manhattan College for our elite engineering program and the opportunity to go abroad. They explained how they said goodbye to their family at the airport and flew over 4,000 miles to a city they’ve never been to before.

They met a relative in New York who steered them to the college and then left them to fend for themselves. The two hopped on the 1-train to Target to buy dorm room essentials and toiletries but bought too much to be taken back on the subway and, after a moment of panic, had to ask a stranger for help getting it all back to the school. Every day they call their families, but with a six-hour time difference it can be tricky to stay in touch.

Some students here at MC are doing it this way—leaving their families behind in Hawaii, Puerto Rico or even parts of Europe to come to New York City. They navigated their way to 242nd street, moved themselves into the dorms and began a life as far away from familiarity as possible.

For most of us, however, this isn’t the case. The majority of us had our parents drive us from Long Island or Massachusetts or, at worst, California, and help us move into our new home. Our moms went through a whole pack of Lysol disinfecting the bathroom and our dads helped to set up our TVs and computers. We talk on the phone every day and see eachother once a month. And even if we had a summer job, most parents help pay for our education.

This is okay. Cutting the cord is harsh and messy. It can take time. We will get there one day, but for now we are making tiny snips toward breaking the invisible ties that bind us to our family dynamic. Our parents raised us, guided us on how to view the world, and how to love and be loved. Coming to college is starting to change all that.

We’ve stepped outside our comfort zones and are starting to see everything in a whole new light. What you thought was good, bad, healthy or toxic under your parents’ care might have shifted. Maybe what used to make you happy doesn’t anymore. Or, maybe you had a pickle for the first time and couldn’t believe you had lived your whole life without it.

The thought of being totally on my own at 18 years old makes me cringe; I probably couldn’t even afford to pay my monthly cellphone bill. But I couldn’t go back to living my life the way I did in high school because I was a different person then. We’re lucky—we get to experiment with life for the next four years with a safety net. Go out, embrace the change, and start setting yourself free.