Tag Archives: gratitude

2nd 30 Day Letter Challenge: Day 30–Letter to a Place that Feels Like Home

Dear Princeton University,

I suppose the easiest way for me to say this is that nowhere (with the possible exception of P’s house the summer after my sophomore year of high school) has ever felt like home to me the way you do. Professor Glaude, who I have never actually had a conversation with but feel close to thanks to AG, stresses the importance of being able to feel ownership over you, and unlike many of my peers, I have never struggled with this. I never mumble that I go to “a small private school in Jersey” when asked what college I attend; I speak your name proudly. Less two brief academic freakouts during Freshman Year, I have never felt like I don’t belong with you or like I’m not enough for you. Less one incident involving a bunch of students from other institutions and a bunch of anonymous comments on the Prince’s website and one precept full of jocks, I have never felt anything but accepted by you and all your various representatives, even if I’m not what they expect when we first meet. 
I love my friends from my life before/outside of Princeton, and many of them will be integral parts of my person til I am dead and buried, but sometimes I feel like you have given me people who get me in a way no one else ever has. With you, I can get closer to a person in 2 months than I did in 14 years of living in Mays Landing. No matter the season, turning onto Washington Road from Route 1 and driving through the trees that line the road makes me feel like all is right with the world. You are beautiful in both the exquisite, ornate, timeless sense, and the modern state-of-the-art setting-the-pace-for-the-rest-of-the-world sense. You’ve taught me so much about myself. I’ve tried being various people here, as I settle into who I actually am, but I rarely if ever feel like I have to try to be anyone but me. I can be unabashedly nerdy. I can also be more ethnic than I had ever been previously, and get in touch with an urban side I’d never had before. I don’t feel like a walking contradiction when I’m with you. I don’t feel weird.
I’ve been told that I glow when I’m talking about you. My first words whenever anyone asks are invariably I absolutely love [you], and it is the truest of truths. I’m not going to lie: you are undoubtedly the hardest thing I have ever done, though probably not the hardest thing I will ever do, and you are worth every minute of it, even the bleakest. You are my life. There is no way for me to convey to you how validated you made me feel. There is no way for me to tell you about the panic attacks I had for months during the spring of my Senior year in high school as I felt like an idiot for not having applied to any safety schools that wouldn’t have been painful to attend, and no way for me to explain that on that fateful first day of April, 2008, I sobbed with something greater than joy sitting in the computer chair in my mom’s office after reading the word Congratulations, feeling as though everything I had endured in my life had combined with a hell of a lot of luck to get me to that exact moment. I don’t know how to say thank you in a way that even approaches appropriate, besides the facts that I will a) donate to you in increasingly large amounts [maybe not an incredibly noticeable increase every year, but an increase] every year from 2012 until I am dead and buried, b) be fully decked out in my orange and black at reunions every year from 2012 until I am dead and buried, and c) providing that I don’t have any children, you will be the greatest recipient in my will. Any conference, event, anything you might want/need my presence for, I am yours. And even all of that isn’t nearly enough, but reciprocity is impossible in this circumstance. You’re in the process of giving me an entirely new world, more than anyone in my entire family could ever have dreamed.
I know that when I walk out of the Fitz-Randolph gates on June 5th, I won’t be leaving you forever. Like the director of the Honors Program at Columbia told me on my visit, I am a Tiger. Now and tomorrow and for the rest of my life. I still don’t know how I’ll manage it without breaking down, though. I’ll never be without you and your resources, I know, but I still can’t imagine life without you surrounding me. With centuries’ worth of alumni, though, I guess you’ll always be surrounding me…

May the rest of our life together be as glorious as these past three-and-counting years have been,

Maya 

Thanks, Giving

I always chuckle to myself when folks call this Turkey Day
I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve always been a ham kind of girl.
I always wonder when folks call this Thanksgiving Day
who exactly I’m supposed to be thankful towards
For Jesus is someone else’s Lord and Savior, and I don’t
praise Allah either. My thanks are jokes to Life’s daily
demigods and I’d like something a bit more substantive
than thanking my lucky stars. The Universe just sounds like a
cop-out for people who don’t like the sound of God.
So who am I thanking?
My mother, for bringing me into this world and damn near
breaking her back every day to give me every inch of life she can spare?
The ex-stepfather I abhor, because if he hadn’t walked into my mom’s life
mine would have been displaced, my friends and family misplaced, a family
of two and two alone gone back to Georgia, my mom’s first home?
Georgia, where my family has lived since before we had a choice.
Should I thank my too-many-greats-to-count grandmother for surviving the passage
in the dank disease-infested bottom of that ship?  Or my grandfather
of the same generation for liking what he saw up on the auction block
enough to sneak away from his wife in the middle of the night  and
sell his daughter away when she was born with blonde hair and blue eyes?
Blonde hair and blue eyes, like some of my closest friends,
so should I thank the late Dr. King for taking the glory from everyone who’d
dreamt before him?  Chris Hall, my high school’s English Department Supervisor
for making me realize the dreams I’d dreamt weren’t lofty enough, that I was calling
a sledding hill a mountain when I had the tools to tackle Everest? Chris Burch,
my first sweetheart, for teaching me that sometimes it’s better when dreams don’t come true?
The admissions committee member that tossed me into the right pile, for reminding me that
sometimes, they do? Nene, for seeing what I was repressing and getting me involved?
India.Arie for reminding me to Slow Down and appreciate the Little Things, like
whoever instituted a monthly Soul Food Night at the Princeton Quadrangle Club?
Under chaos theory, tabula rasa, and the idea of alternate realities, should I thank everyone
 with whom I have ever crossed paths, for without them I might not be me? All six billion, eight-
hundred-eighty-four-million, thirty-seven thousand, eight-hundred-forty-six people on the planet,
because the world might somehow be different without one of them? Should I just thank myself,
or include things I simultaneously love and hate, like society and affirmative action, like my father?
The power went out as we were warming the candied yams. I used my laptop as a flashlight during the
candles-and-matches-hunt, and as we joined hands to bless our candlelit Thanksgiving dinner, I realized
exactly how many people and things and bittersweet circumstances I have to be thankful for. They each
have their own masters, Gods, and engineers, and so today I will simply thank the ties that bind us all.