I think introductions are boring. Every time I meet a new person, I follow a well-rehearsed script. First he states his name and then I offer mine in return, followed by all of the obligatory questions. “Which residential college are you in?” I ask. He answers and asks me where I’m from. I take a deep breath and brace myself for the reaction I know my answer will elicit. “Princeton,” I state matter-of-factly, “like the town we’re currently in.” My tone may come across as uninterested, but it’s because I’ve been accustomed to and frankly tired of answering the barrage of questions I’m sure will come. “What’s it like living so close to home? Don’t you ever just want to get away? How can you stand being this near your parents?” my confused acquaintance will wonder.
I can stand it quite easily, actually. To tell the truth, living in Princeton and attending Princeton isn’t as atrocious as it sounds. You can wipe the puzzled look off your face because it’s actually true. Don’t get me wrong: There are points when I hate it. When all the freshmen were discovering Nassau Street and marveling at the number of ice cream shops one town manages to sustain, I was thinking to myself, “Been there, done that”. The J. Crew and Kate Spade aren’t exciting to me, and I’ve tried every flavor at the Bent Spoon. It’s not that I don’t like my town. After living here for over 15 years, it’s grown on me and holds a dear spot in my heart, but it’s lost its novelty. I won’t confuse the two Small World locations and I can easily navigate nearly anywhere, even to Taste of Mexico. There are times when I’ve thought that it would have been nice to have immersed myself in a wholly new location, with people and places I’ve never seen before. There’s something alluring about choosing to live in an exotic city that will eventually grow to be a new home. While I do recognize that I’ve missed out on the opportunity to develop a love for a new town, I don’t regret my decision. So much in my life has changed since coming to college that it’s nice to have something remain constant. Princeton is comfortable to me. I can’t begin to describe how nice it is to run into my neighbor in Palmer Square and to know where I am going around town. Having gone to high school in the area, I’m always around when my friends come home from college and I never have to worry about plane tickets or luggage or how I’ll fit all my clothes and my fridge into one car.
When I’ve forgotten a necessity at home, I don’t have to wait two weeks for it to come in the mail. Instead, it’s just a quick phone call home and a three-minute drive before my parents drop off whatever it is I need outside my door in Forbes. I like to play along when people joke about how much it sucks to live in Forbes and offer up the neat fact that it takes about the same amount of time for me to walk from Frist to my room as it does for me to just walk to my house. That one usually provokes quite a reaction. My friends will look at me and think, “That poor girl, she’ll never get away from her parents.”
But that’s just it. I don’t want to get away. With the chaos that comes with classes, clubs, activities and the whole social scene, it becomes incredibly convenient to just take time off from campus. After a 15-minute walk, I can find myself in my own bed in my own room feeling completely and entirely at ease. I can go downstairs to talk to my dad about what’s been happening in the neighborhood or sit in the kitchen with my mom and Skype my aunts. My brother is just one room over, and I can annoy him to my heart’s desire. When I’ve had my fill of family life, I can easily and quietly return to campus to rejoin the mayhem of the University.
Sure, there’s tension. I always kind of bristle when students mention how annoying the townies are or loudly proclaim that the town wouldn’t exist without the University (a blatantly false conviction by the way). I see the school’s point when the local residents push against the University’s efforts to expand. I’m torn between two loyalties that are not easily reconciled. But I manage and, in my opinion, thrive.
It’s no utopia, but for me it was the best decision I could have made. There are times when I daydream about having chosen some school on the West Coast, where there are beaches for miles and my parents can’t drop by unexpectedly, a bad habit they’ve begun to adopt. It’s in the middle of these sweet reveries when I’m imagining how much better it’d be to study physics under a palm tree that I remember how good my situation really is. There are so many advantages to leaving your hometown and starting fresh, but for each one there’s also a benefit for staying close to home. Home-cooked meals, visits from high school friends and a hug from my mom just when I need it are only the beginning of a long list. It’s not easy explaining over and over again why I chose Princeton, but it is easy living with my decision.