SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: My Parents’ Rules Are Making My College Life Miserable

Dear Auntie SparkNotes,

I’m a college junior, and I’ve been living with my parents and commuting to class by train, partly because my elderly parents need my help at home and partly because they like to keep an eye on me. I can’t participate in clubs, extracurricular activities, or go to parties because my parents feel that these things are a waste of time and I should focus on my studies. And my use of social media is limited because my parents won’t let me buy an iPhone. However, I can’t move out and support myself because I can’t get a work permit until I have a bachelor’s degree.

The upside is that under the circumstances I have the time to be a straight-A student, the downside is that I literally have zero friends because no one can accept my unusual situation. The loneliness eats away at me, but my parents don’t understand and just tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself.

Auntie, I don’t want to graduate a friendless outcast but I am stuck in this situation. Is there a way to make friends under the circumstances? And how can I deal with my frustration towards my parents? I don’t want to be an ungrateful wretch, since they are obviously footing the bill for college, but their rules are making my college years a pain.

Well, that’s for damn sure! And I’m sorry that’s the case, Sparkler. Your parents’ attitude sucks, and it’s thoroughly unreasonable. In fact, if they weren’t inflicting said attitude on you to the detriment of your happiness, I’d feel almost sorry for them. What kind of sad, sad person believes that clubs and parties and sports and music and every kind of organized socializing are just a waste of time —in other words, that there is literally no point to life except to accumulate knowledge for the purpose of academic achievement? Man, that’s bleak. (It also makes me wonder how your parents ever justified the waste of time it must have required for them to meet, date, marry, and procreate when they could have been studying.)

But knowing that you have Auntie’s utmost sympathies, here’s the thing: the fact that none of your choices in this situation are particularly appealing does not change the fact that you have choices. Yes, your parents’ rules are quite the effective cage; they essentially exclude you from socializing in most of the forums people your age use to do that. That leaves you with three options: a) to risk the consequences of breaking the rules, b) to follow them and accept the suck, or c) to remove yourself from their household and their influence so that they simply no longer apply. Those may not be great options, but they’re options all the same.

And for the record, if you wanted to take option A, I’m quite certain that nobody would blame you—and unless your parents are monitoring your every move via GPS, it seems doubtful that they’d ever find out if you were to, say, spend an extra couple hours each week playing intramural volleyball or joining a discussion group or getting a coffee with your classmates before hopping the train home. Obviously, it’s your call whether it’s worth the risk of yelling/punishment/loss of college funding to socialize against your folks’ wishes; I’m just duty-bound to point out that it’s an option, and one you’re allowed to consider. (Ditto option C; I’m not sure where you’re living that you need a permit to work and a bachelor’s degree to get it, but surely there must be people in your country who don’t have their parents’ financial support and have to work to pay their own way through college? What do they do? Could you do it, too?) But the point is, you aren’t “stuck”, as you say; nobody is forcing you to stay under your parents’ roof and obey your parents’ rules. You’re choosing this over your other options for a reason—because you don’t want a fight, or you do want the money, or [insert something I haven’t thought of here.] And that’s what you need to remind yourself when you start feeling frustrated and resentful: that this situation (draconian household rules in exchange for college cash) is just what your parents had to offer. Accepting it was your decision.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that your folks’ rules still leave a certain amount of room for you to develop friendly acquaintanceships with people in your classes—and to augment those relationships through the kind of social media you can access on a computer. That may not be exactly what you wanted, but it’s something, and it’s certainly a long way from being “a friendless outcast.” Having casual friendly relationships with the people you see on a daily basis can be enjoyable on its own merits, if you let it—and if you stop devoting so much time and energy to being unhappy about the ways your current social life falls short of the ideal.

In short: If living with your parents is the best of your available options, sweet pea, then choose it and find the good in your choice. Remind yourself as needed that you made it for a reason. And remember that this, too, shall pass—within a couple years, or maybe even sooner. After all, the one thing your parents’ rules do leave room for is the kind of academic overload that lets you fulfill your credit requirements and graduate a semester or even a full year ahead of time.

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