Dispatches at The Prospect are brief reflections from our writers that focus on their experiences during the summer break. This piece is part of the Dispatch summer 2022 series.
As the time for move-in approaches again, I sometimes find myself lingering over the incoming class of 2026’s Discord server, which I entered initially to help answer their questions about the mysterious world of Princeton. I read their excitement (and sometimes despair) with their room placements, glance over their entirely too-ambitious class schedules, and watch them stumble around with the entirely new Princeton vocabulary (yes, McCosh is a classroom building, and the health center).
It brings forth in me a nostalgic feeling for this time last year, when I too was glancing longingly at Googled pictures of Blair Arch, fantasizing about what the year was going to bring me. Yet, while this nostalgia brings a warm sense of comfort, it also brings up a darker feeling of reluctance.
Many people who know me (or follow me on Twitter) know that my first year at Princeton was marred with a sense of bitterness. Princeton, in many different ways, both mentally and physically, changed me.
In the first days of orientation, in between the heat-riddled ice breaker games and getting lost on campus, I started developing debilitating stomach problems. In the beginning, I chalked it up to the traveler’s anxiety. After all, I had just moved to a completely different country, all by myself. Yet, by the time midterms rolled around, I was in debilitating pain every day, and the dining hall, which I had been once so excited for, had turned into a minefield, wherein every turn I was faced with the debilitating decision of eating something knowing it would hurt me, or restricting myself and harming my relationship with food.
This anxiety I had around eating turned into a pattern of disordered eating, that left me with periods of lethargy due to not eating enough, and periods of uncontrollable hunger in which I felt weighed down not only physically, but also mentally.
The lowest point in the year came during the first half of the spring semester, when I did not leave my room, except to go to class, and to attend my shifts for the ‘Prince.’ I didn’t see my friends for six entire weeks.
It was during spring break, after those long six weeks of self-isolation, when I realized things had to change. The first day I came home, I looked in the mirror at myself in my childhood bedroom and realized that I no longer recognized the person who stared back. I realized that if I was going to keep attending Princeton, I had to find the person I was before I came to campus again.
I cried the day I had to return to campus, not because I did not want to return, but because I had finally found the inspiration to try and find happiness.
Eventually, I figured out my physical health issues, but the mental struggle that had plagued me for the entire year was still as strong as ever. I clawed my way through the end of the semester and swore that I would never feel this way again.
As I packed up my freshman year dorm room, I symbolically swore to pack away the pain that I had felt in that room.
Now today, a month away from move-in, I’ve found myself excited to come back to campus, a feeling I thought I would never feel again. In a way, I feel like I am redoing my freshman move-in. I have no idea what to expect of a campus not tainted in physical and mental struggle, I have no idea what it will be like to be able to make memories with my friends, and not look back only to remember the discomfort I was feeling in those moments.
I am looking ahead now that the worst is over, and I am optimistic for the first time in a long time that Princeton is the place I am meant to be.
Sidney Singer is an Assistant News Editor from Nova Scotia, Canada, who has covered a variety of news on and around campus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @sidneylsinger, or on Instagram @sidneysinger.