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    My Brain on Break

    In my mind, I'd become a brilliant college freshman; to my family, I'd become, well, a jerk.

    Crystal Kirgiss

    It wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done. As a college freshman, I went home for that first break feeling extraordinarily knowledgeable. My horizons had been broadened. My mind had been challenged. My life was expanding way beyond my middle-class suburban upbringing. All that highly intellectual course work, all those hours of hanging out in the coffee shop debating current events, all those late nights in the dorm lounge delving into the deep questions of the universe meant only one thing: I was now immensely wiser than my parents.

    Oh, sure, they'd both earned college degrees. But that was ages ago. And besides, to look at them now, sitting in their three-bedroom home, eating Swedish meatballs, watching reruns of I Love Lucy, they were definitely not broadening their horizons, challenging their minds or expanding beyond their current lives.

    In the months I'd been gone, it seemed I'd grown by leaps and bounds while my family sat still. I didn't want to lose the ground I'd gained. So the new me did a very stupid thing.

    I got home on a Thursday night, looked in the fridge on Friday morning and saw, to my horror, a whole bunch of food I no longer ate. Without taking even a moment to stop and think (a good indicator my mind was not quite as advanced as I believed), I zipped off to a grocery store, bought a bag full of "good" food—food that cool college students concerned about health and nutrition eat—brought it home, labeled each item with my initials (something responsible roommates do), and put it all away.

    Never once did I wonder how this would look to my family.

    Well, it didn't look good.

    "Who does she think she is, anyway?"

    "What, isn't our food good enough for her now?"

    "Smarty pants college girl and her stupid skim milk. Ha!"

    I could handle the ridicule. In my opinion, it was more proof of my intellectual loftiness. But I learned a hard lesson when my dad pulled me aside and gently said, "You know, what you did really hurt your mom's feelings."

    Who? Me? Wonderful, educated, intelligent, a-whole-term-under-my-belt me?

    If only I'd thought first.

    If only I'd said, "Hey, Mom, would you mind picking up a carton of skim milk and wheat bread next time you shop?"

    If only I'd thought of others as more important than myself.

    Putting ID labels on my food wasn't the only stupid thing I did when I came home. I pulled a few more boneheaded stunts.

    With those in mind, here's a list of things to avoid doing when you come home from college (including some things I did myself). Things like . . .

    . . . walking around in the same sweat pants for weeks on end.

    . . . leaving toothpaste goo in the bathroom sink for someone else to clean up.

    . . . saying, "Hey, Mom, great to be home! Where d'ya want my laundry?"

    . . . staying up all night and sleeping all day.

    . . . declaring that after a rough academic experience, you need a few weeks of vacation.

    . . . commenting on Mom's outdated wardrobe.

    . . . making it clear to your younger siblings you can't be bothered with their silly stories and mindless drivel, and, no, you don't want to play any more video games.

    . . . calling your long-distance college friends during peak hours for lengthy meaning-of-life discussions.

    . . . assuming your great intelligence translates into "No Rules."

    I share these things with you for two reasons: One, so you can laugh at my stupid mistakes. And two, so you don't do them yourself, because they're all pretty dumb and pretty much guaranteed to drive your family bananas while they secretly wish you would just go away again. Soon.

    But if you want those visits home to go smoothly, try these things instead:

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