Dear Mom and Dad
It’s 3 a.m., and I am eating all of the snacks you’ve sent me in an attempt to get through these last 30 pages of Kant. I think I’ve been neglecting all my friends. My roomies have taken to playfully calling me the Loch Ness monster because I’m never around, and I have German tomorrow at 9 a.m., in which I will sit silently and pretend I learned all the new vocabulary. If prompted, I will say truthfully that “ich bin sehr, sehr mude” — I’m really, really tired. Sometimes, I wish I could nap till 2015 and wake up with a diploma. I know exactly what you would say to these theatrics, Dad. “Stop complaining. Always stay two steps ahead of the curve. Patience and perseverance overcome mountains.”
The 15 or so of these proverbs that you have repeated thousands of times to me over the past 19 years still echo in my head. I hear them in your voice and wish you weren’t right about everything, and that you didn’t speak in goofy cliches all the time.
I don’t complain too much to my friends because mostly everyone has these similar struggles and it’s just selfish to wallow in self-pity. But with you, it’s different. I’m allowed to complain because you’re obliged to listen, right? Do I eventually outgrow this privilege? I’ll keep going anyway.
I found out last night that I got a B on my English project. Professor Jones said I seemed “frustrated and flummoxed” coming into class and that it showed in my presentation, and that, while my discussion questions were insightful, I should always remember to print out handouts for the class. Well, I meant to print out handouts for the class. It’s just that I left everything to the last minute before class started, and none of the printers in Firestone were working, so I showed up 10 minutes late, empty-handed. I was, in fact, frustrated and flummoxed. I think it showed in my presentation. I know exactly what you would say to this fiasco, Dad. “Foresight prevents blindness.”
I have to thank you for picking up the phone last night and listening to my garbled attempt to explain my last lecture on the philosophy of Kant. You seemed impressed, but I think that was mainly because I had to begin the conversation by explaining to you who Kant was. I suspect that if I was studying electrical engineering you would never be impressed.
I hung up because I said I wanted to keep reading and you sounded pleased that I would get to bed early. I didn’t. I read for 20 minutes and then went to a party with some friends. We dorm-hopped and ended up at an eating club with more than 100 of my peers, who probably had just as much work to do as I did. Sometimes you whip out the Hindi when you’re really frustrated with me. “Ek dhoondo hazaar milay” — if you look for one, you’ll find 1,000.
I think you know more about me than you let on, and I wonder what your honest opinion of me is — the opinion you would have if I weren’t your daughter. Is it weird for you that I’m 19? Does it feel like I grew up too quickly? College moves quickly. Sometimes I hold tight and pretend that I’m not moving at all; sometimes it feels like I fell out the window and am racing to catch up. I don’t know what platitude you would offer me in this instance. Maybe “slow and steady wins the race.”
I’ll call you tonight, I swear.
Lekha Kanchinadam is a sophomore staff writer from right around here and now, New Jersey.
You might have been wondering why I seemed to have vanished off the face of the Earth without a trace, save for an occasional email (“Help! My bank account’s in the negatives!”) and a generous number of J.Crew credit-card statements. Let me first assure you that I’m still alive — that is, if three hours of sleep a night still qualifies me as alive.
Truth is, I’ve been stressed. Classes are terribly demanding at Princeton, and I never imagined studying so arduously in my life. You know you’re swamped with work when buying socks in bulk seems like a good alternative to weekly laundry, and therapeutic shopping seems like the only means to get through the weekdays.
But despite the mountains of work, I’ve also been learning to take myself a little less seriously, to let go of perfecting every small, trivial thing and to rather take more chances, try out things that may be intimidating and stop focusing on success versus failure. I’m in college; I’m still striving to find what I’m passionate about. It takes a lot of trial and error to discover that lifestyle I want to lead, that niche I’m most comfortable with. I’ve never imagined myself hopping on a train to NYC for a weekend of Model UN, finding a new family of sisters in my sorority, becoming best friends with a six-pack of Red Bull at 3 a.m., commiserating with friends as we work through problem sets until the sky lightens and the birds start singing and sliding into a lot of firsts I never thought I’d break so early.
Mom, I never really thought I would drink in college. It may seem that, having spent the last nine years at an all-girls' school in a predominantly conservative Asian neighborhood under the dictatorship of tiger parents, I would continue living up to your standards and be that perfect daughter throughout college. Or one who at least bestows upon you the merciful delusion that I’m still everything you want me to be: a diligent student at a prestigious college with absolutely no resemblance to the characters featured in the bawdy college horror stories that circulate around the network of Mom Gossip.
But Mom, I’ve made mistakes before: slept through meetings, failed a midterm, went out more intoxicated than I’d like to admit and kissed guys I wasn’t dating. I’ve done things I’ve never expected to do, acted on impulses I’m not completely quite proud of. But I don’t want to construct myself into an angel and mislead you into believing I’m perfect. I want to tell you about every inch of my life, all these less-than-flattering anecdotes, because I respect you and I want you to trust me — trust that I can learn from my mistakes, make my own decisions, face the consequences and keep moving forward to become a better person.
I know you worry and telling you not to worry changes nothing, but Mom, I haven’t changed at heart. Those moral values you’ve ingrained into the core of my existence are still there, and though I’ve slipped up once or twice, they’re still there to guide me as I reflect and learn from each mistake. Now more than ever, I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and I don’t regret anything I’ve done: Each occurrence has made me stronger, more confident and more conscious about who I want to become.
I know that you’ll tell me small mistakes lead to bigger ones and that everything related to sinful indulgences necessarily leads to addiction and will eventually destroy my life. I know it’s hard for you to acknowledge that I’m not a child anymore, to recognize that I need space and time to mess up and learn how to stand back up again and to judge for myself how I want to proceed with my life. And though I’m so far away, I’m not alone. Princeton is here for me, and though I’ve crossed the threshold of our front door, I’m still dwelling in the safety of this Orange Bubble.
Still, I do miss home. I miss grilling steak with Dad under the California sun, fishing with my little brother and fixing up tacos with the fresh catch and strolling to tea stations with Mom to chat for hours on end. Maybe when we Skype the next time you won’t even recognize me with the 10 pounds I will have put on. But regardless, I cannot wait to return home for fall break and tell you more about the adventures — good and bad — I've had in this castle that will continue to be my home, my family and my guide for these next few years.
Jessica Ma is a sophomore staff writer from San Marino, Calif.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Just a year ago, I was greeting you two at the Dinky, and I was so excited to show you my favorite study spots, the places where I have rehearsals, the Harry Potter-esque Mathey dining hall and all of the best places to eat on Nassau Street. After a year here, I’m surprised how different my life actually is from what you saw on that first Parents’ Weekend tour. My relationships with those places have dramatically changed since I showed them to you as a freshman.
I know I’m at Princeton and I should be studying all the time, but that’s not the case. Since I’m in a student dance company, a good amount of the time, my study spots are in those rehearsal spaces I was so excited to show you, not in a quiet library where I am surrounded by books. Instead, I’m surrounded by music, usually something catchy like Beyonce or Coldplay classics blasting in my ears. With that music, you can probably deduce that my late night study sessions turn into full-on dance jams where the “Bernie” replaces my books. Another surprise (well, you probably know this from the credit card bill...) is that I eat in the dining hall surprisingly less frequently than I should. I know that you’ve definitely caught on to it since you give me gift cards to Starbucks and Twist, trying to make me feel better about my addiction. But really, my habit of sometimes going up to Nassau Street twice a day should not be encouraged.
Still, most of the stuff you think I do here is true. I go to class every day, even though my reading might not always be done. I dance until the wee hours of the night, sometimes in a studio and sometimes on Prospect Avenue. I see my older sister when I can. She’s already buried in her senior workload, so most of our bonding is through late night suffering in Firestone. Nothing says sister time like the depressing cubicles on the C-floor, right? The only thing cheerful about that dungeon is the looks people give you when you make noise while walking — not. I’ve learned to avoid wearing boots while studying down there. I might have to invest in slippers. Sorry, I don’t mean to worry you guys. You were in college once too.
Now that I have been here a year, I still miss you guys the same amount. Though my failure to call home frequently might not reflect that, I mean it. I look forward to anytime I get the chance to see you two, whether it is only for the weekend for a dance show or for three weeks over winter break. If you two think I’m growing up too fast, I’m here to comfort you with the knowledge that I still feel like a freshman at heart. I freak out at every black squirrel I see and have pictures to prove it. I take too many walks past the U-Store to see if any new Princeton shirts have arrived. I just discovered the new Frick Chemistry Laboratory and the reason so many people have bikes here. And I sort of wish I were a freshman again, if only for this weekend, so I would have the chance to see you two.
Allison Metts is a sophomore staff writer from The Woodlands, Texas.