January is a mix of emotions for Princeton students. It's an odd combination of excitement for the start of the new year, frustration from the odd schedule ending holiday celebrations prematurely, and anxiety about the tsunami of class material to be covered before finals. I expected all of these feelings before leaving for break, and although new to this, I was mentally bracing myself for this whirlwind. I wasn’t immune to any of these post-break effects, but no one mentioned the overwhelming homesickness I would feel. I am not usually one to feel “homesick”: I decided I wanted to go to college out-of-state by my freshman year of high school, and coming from New York, I was aware that I was lucky enough to be one bus ride away from home. So why was I pulling a full Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”?
The first semester of college was a haze of friendly faces and structured events to “orient” ourselves during the first week. It’s obvious what the point of these events was: to keep us occupied by the fantastical image of Princeton, where everyone is energized and optimistic. The whole process seemed like a force-fed advertisement to remind us of how lucky we were to attend the school, with all the opportunities ahead.
To be honest, it worked. I barely thought about my old life, and I sadly sacrificed several Snapchat streaks with hometown friends. As fall break approached in October, I was actually dreading the thought of going home, despite my family’s extensive, exciting plans for my first of many visits. During that week, Princeton-oriented texts and group chats flooded with people saying how much they missed dinner chats at Roma and pointless laughs only explainable by the delirious effects of “crackhead hours.”
In the weeks between October and winter break, classes seemingly grew more stressful and symbolic of the eventual close of my first semester. A break from academic stress was long-awaited, but zee group goodbyes were still difficult. The completion of winter break would completely change that. The dread of being home was eventually replaced with the dread of coming back to college.
At home, I was reminded of how simple and amazing my old life used to be. I looked at my hometown through a nostalgic lens, emphasizing my favorable memories while blurring out bitter ones. Time spent with high school friends brought effortless conversations, reminiscing about high school and talking about our different college lives. My old friends understood my past and present — and how this was encapsulated within my whole identity. Neither of these parts of myself was distinguished. Stomping on old grounds, I felt fully accepted and understood for who I was. For lack of better words, I felt at home, and that was an amazing feeling to have again.
During break, I didn’t have the same responsibilities as college, so it was easy to confuse the ease of break with the relief of being home. Vacation paints a smooth and idealistic picture of our hometowns. We relax in our childhood bedrooms that contain memories and secrets within their walls. We are able to take full advantage of our towns, going to our favorite restaurants and shops that we may or may not have had time for in high school. We see our old friends that remind us of the glory days in high school, and we laugh until our stomachs hurt.
However, home life seems perfect because we are only reminded of the positive memories associated with home. Home was frankly a massive boost to my ego. The hard work of establishing my reputation and seemingly “fitting in” was already done, but I didn’t have this feeling of fulfillment back on campus. I could go on an endless tangent about the simplicity and idealistic nature of home, but I digress. I don't want to waste time constantly daydreaming about my high school days. I know home is always going to be permanent, and establishing who I am here is an endeavor I’m scared of, but willing to take on.