I’ve been thinking a lot about French toast lately. From the late-night Dean’s Date breakfast to talks of a final Forbes brunch — a Princeton milestone I have yet to accomplish — breakfast food has been a recent topic of discussion. Despite the frequent debates about the best dining hall brunch, I don’t typically associate breakfast food with Princeton. Instead, I think about my family.
My extended family collectively owned a beach bungalow in New York to share among my many cousins, aunts, and uncles over the course of the summer. Some of my favorite childhood memories come from the quaint community called Breezy Point, where I rode Razor scooters to the store for bagels and collected shards of sea glass with my friends. My time at Breezy Point revolved around distinctly nostalgic, stereotypical beach vacation experiences, but I loved the simple summers where I spent time with my friends and family as a young child.
One of my favorite memories from my childhood was the occasional brunches that my family prepared, which always involved a complicated French toast production that usually ended in a chaotic mess. The bungalow would smell like cinnamon, egg, weathered wooden floorboards, and the sand that was constantly tracked into the house. On a day with particularly strong breezes, a faint scent of ocean salt drifted in through the open windows.
At this point, my memory of Breezy Point is just that — a memory. My family no longer owns the beach house, so I can never return to those times. In some sense, the past will always stay in the past, and I doubt that any memory can truly be recreated as it first occurred. I will never be able to share future experiences with my family in a place that is so uniquely significant to all of us. A part of my past has been forever lost and will only remain in my memory instead.
So, while I’m not thinking about French toast relative to Princeton, I am reflecting on my memories here as the school year begins to wind down. With the whirlwind that has been my first year at Princeton, I thought I would be more satisfied with everything that I have accomplished. From the small celebrations of finding classrooms on the first days of school to meeting an incredible group of friends, I expected to enjoy reminiscing over the year. In the depths of final exams, I also thought the possibility of rest during the summer would be exciting.
While I am eager for what the summer will bring, I am also confronted by some sadness. The end of the year means a break from the intense workload, but it also means an end to the routine and comfort that I have spent an entire year creating here. I also think about the places on campus that I have discovered as study and reflection spaces, now inaccessible for the next three months. I think about the beautiful campus — at least the parts not under construction — that I walk through every day. But mostly, I think about the people that I spent my time with here, some of whom I will likely be unable to stay in touch with as our schedules change.
I will miss the comfort of knowing that I have friends to talk to just down the hall. Most of all, I fear that I will grow apart from my friends and that next year will vastly diverge from the familiarity and rapport that I have developed. In this sense, I am afraid of the “Breezy Point effect,” or that the joyful memories and personal connections from this year will exist only in my memories. In other words, I am worried about losing the wonderful people that I have met and no longer having the chance to create more experiences with them.
Despite my concerns, I still plan to rally my friends for a final Forbes brunch of the semester, which will likely become another college memory. Hopefully, instead of thinking about the immutability of the past or the uncertainty of the future, I can simply enjoy the present moment with my friends like I enjoyed my summers at the beach with my family.
Isabella Dail is a first-year and an associate editor for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at email@example.com.