Off Campus

A place by the hearth

I was walking through Harvard Square in a snowstorm when I truly realized that I was leaving, that this was my last year. Come next fall, the life I’m leading now will be turned on its head. Cambridge will become the place I visit over school breaks and in summertime, and my house will be the house I grew up in, not the place I live. My bedroom will be in a college dorm, and later, in my own apartment. I probably won’t be in touch with most of my high school grade. Suddenly, trudging through slush while fat white snowflakes fell all around me, I felt as if my world was teetering on the precipice of an enormous drop-off, and I couldn’t see what lay over the edge.

As I walked, pieces of my childhood cropped up around me. I passed the corner where, dressed in my favorite Snow White costume, I used to dance with my father to the tunes of a local accordion player. I passed my favorite poetry shop, where I took many papers from the “take a poem, leave a poem” bowl and spent countless afternoons reading until my brain felt like it might burst out my ears. I passed the hole-in-the-wall cafe where I went with friends to eat grilled guava and cheese sandwiches and have important life conversations, the Tibetan trinket shop where I bought fake turquoise rings during my (kind of ongoing) hippy phase, and my favorite people-watching bench. I peered into the Japanese restaurant that my family has frequented since I was 4 years old and spotted our favorite table by the window. Everything felt so familiar, so beautifully intertwined.

I then thought of BB&N, my school of 14 years, and all of you. I thought of the Lower School campus, when the whole world felt magical and we played make-believe games on the playground at recess. I discovered my love of art and writing there, and spent hours tucked between the library shelves with my head in a book. I remember the Middle School, all the angst of adolescence, when every small thing had a sense of world-ending importance. I remember my first year of high school, an onslaught of new people and experiences, an overwhelming mess of hallways to navigate. It’s been a whirlwind, but a wonderful one in many ways. I grew here, with all of you. I walk into the Commons each morning, greeted by the sleepy faces of friends I love, and I know I have a community where people know and care about me. That’s a special thing.

I have never been one to shy away from new experiences. On the contrary, I have a habit of jumping into drastically new situations with alarming frequency. My mom reminds me that on my first day of preschool, while she teared up dropping off her very first baby, I practically ran from her arms and through the door. I loved the independence of sleep-away camp as a child, and as I grew older, I was always signing up for summer programs that took me away from home and into different worlds—the mountains, the stage, you name it. Last spring, I dropped everything and spent a semester in Rome, across the ocean from everything and everyone I knew, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I find that falling into a routine can grow dull quickly—I’ve been hooked on adventure and exploration since I could walk. Why, then, does the thought of leaving home seem so jarring now?

Permanence. I suppose that’s why. When we graduate high school and begin college, we move irreversibly forward into impending “adulthood,” whatever that means. That new world is exhilarating in so many ways—the possibility, the potential, the space we have to grow. There are so many decisions to make, and they’re all up to us. That’s also terrifying. We’ll be on our own in a big world, and it won’t be child’s play anymore. Leaving here will be like leaving a part of my life behind.

The windows of my home glowed yellow against the blue storm as I walked up my street, and my porch light illuminated the snow as it floated down to rest on our front steps. My mother and father were in the kitchen, tag-teaming dinner, and I could hear their favorite Mexican folk artist playing on the radio. I paused for a moment by the door and felt a warmth wash over me, a sense of grateful peace, as I watched them. This was home. Soon enough, I’ll be moving out, going to college, and then finding a place of my own, but for now I am here. And right now, that is enough.

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