By the end of elementary school, I started going to overnight summer camp. While I know there must have been at least a few activities I enjoyed…I mostly remember the crying spells, anxiety, and sleepless nights of homesickness. A friend of mine who was also homesick and I used to have very serious conversations over the uncertainty of our futures…
"Nurit, what are we going to do about college when our moms aren’t there?"
"I know, I thought about that too. People are supposed to live away from their parents in college. I can't do that. I wonder if I'll ever be able to get married."
"Yeah, I thought about that too. I miss my mom just thinking about it."
The homesickness didn’t leave even after a few years and I was starting to get pretty embarrassed. As far as I knew, I was possibly the only one still feeling this way. So with the help of my amazing mother and her friend, we came up with a plan. The nights were the toughest, so we decided I would go in armed and ready, with the hope of braving the night by myself without finding a counselor. We bought a booklight and a magazine to have something to do even if I'd be too anxious to fall asleep.
The first night at camp, my booklight broke after about five minutes of reading my magazine. I looked out into the night in a panic, desperate to be on my couch at home watching I Love Lucy with my mom. Somehow though, I mustered up the strength to stare off into space for hours, knowing I’ll feel okay once the sun comes up. When the sky turned bluish gray through the tent flaps, I was so proud to have made it through the night alone. The next day I made a few friends and that was it - I never had to fix my booklight.
One misconception people have about resilience is that you’re either born with it or you’re not. You either believe you can make it through hardship and live life to the fullest, or you’re stuck being insecure and overly careful. If that were true then my husband and I would be living in my family’s basement right now to stay close to my mom...Thankfully, resilience is a muscle that can be strengthened, no matter the starting point.
My mom used to say to me, “Don’t lose sleep over not being able to sleep.” I think the same should go for stress. If a stressful situation comes up and I’m not able to naturally respond with a sense of “inner peace”, I can get frustrated and ask myself, why do I feel this way? Why am I so emotional? Why must I feel so hurt or angry? But then I realized that this war on emotions only multiplies them to an even more overwhelming degree. Truly resilient people don’t have an absence of emotion, nor do they wage war on them. Instead, they fully accept their feelings without seeing them as weaknesses. Rather than saying, “I’m a baby for being homesick” they’ll say, “I feel homesick, so I need support. I’ll reach out to my mom and we’ll try to come up with a plan so that I can make friends and enjoy my summer as much as possible”.
I would be very curious to know…have you found this to be true in your own life?
P.S. It turns out there is interesting research on our mentality towards stress