Monday, July 18, 2011

2nd 30 Day Letter Challenge: Day 30--Letter to a Place that Feels Like Home

Dear Princeton University,

I suppose the easiest way for me to say this is that nowhere (with the possible exception of P's house the summer after my sophomore year of high school) has ever felt like home to me the way you do. Professor Glaude, who I have never actually had a conversation with but feel close to thanks to AG, stresses the importance of being able to feel ownership over you, and unlike many of my peers, I have never struggled with this. I never mumble that I go to "a small private school in Jersey" when asked what college I attend; I speak your name proudly. Less two brief academic freakouts during Freshman Year, I have never felt like I don't belong with you or like I'm not enough for you. Less one incident involving a bunch of students from other institutions and a bunch of anonymous comments on the Prince's website and one precept full of jocks, I have never felt anything but accepted by you and all your various representatives, even if I'm not what they expect when we first meet. 
I love my friends from my life before/outside of Princeton, and many of them will be integral parts of my person til I am dead and buried, but sometimes I feel like you have given me people who get me in a way no one else ever has. With you, I can get closer to a person in 2 months than I did in 14 years of living in Mays Landing. No matter the season, turning onto Washington Road from Route 1 and driving through the trees that line the road makes me feel like all is right with the world. You are beautiful in both the exquisite, ornate, timeless sense, and the modern state-of-the-art setting-the-pace-for-the-rest-of-the-world sense. You've taught me so much about myself. I've tried being various people here, as I settle into who I actually am, but I rarely if ever feel like I have to try to be anyone but me. I can be unabashedly nerdy. I can also be more ethnic than I had ever been previously, and get in touch with an urban side I'd never had before. I don't feel like a walking contradiction when I'm with you. I don't feel weird.
I've been told that I glow when I'm talking about you. My first words whenever anyone asks are invariably I absolutely love [you], and it is the truest of truths. I'm not going to lie: you are undoubtedly the hardest thing I have ever done, though probably not the hardest thing I will ever do, and you are worth every minute of it, even the bleakest. You are my life. There is no way for me to convey to you how validated you made me feel. There is no way for me to tell you about the panic attacks I had for months during the spring of my Senior year in high school as I felt like an idiot for not having applied to any safety schools that wouldn't have been painful to attend, and no way for me to explain that on that fateful first day of April, 2008, I sobbed with something greater than joy sitting in the computer chair in my mom's office after reading the word Congratulations, feeling as though everything I had endured in my life had combined with a hell of a lot of luck to get me to that exact moment. I don't know how to say thank you in a way that even approaches appropriate, besides the facts that I will a) donate to you in increasingly large amounts [maybe not an incredibly noticeable increase every year, but an increase] every year from 2012 until I am dead and buried, b) be fully decked out in my orange and black at reunions every year from 2012 until I am dead and buried, and c) providing that I don't have any children, you will be the greatest recipient in my will. Any conference, event, anything you might want/need my presence for, I am yours. And even all of that isn't nearly enough, but reciprocity is impossible in this circumstance. You're in the process of giving me an entirely new world, more than anyone in my entire family could ever have dreamed.
I know that when I walk out of the Fitz-Randolph gates on June 5th, I won't be leaving you forever. Like the director of the Honors Program at Columbia told me on my visit, I am a Tiger. Now and tomorrow and for the rest of my life. I still don't know how I'll manage it without breaking down, though. I'll never be without you and your resources, I know, but I still can't imagine life without you surrounding me. With centuries' worth of alumni, though, I guess you'll always be surrounding me...

May the rest of our life together be as glorious as these past three-and-counting years have been,


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