The Donald M. Wilson Reading Corner of the Princeton public library is a little lower than ground level. Facing the massive windows that let in the cool, natural lighting of the fall day, I feel a sense of nostalgia for the place I’ve spent exactly 1 hour and 12 minutes in. This nook sits directly on the corner of Wiggins St. & Witherspoon St. surely named after important people I’ll never have the pleasure or displeasure of meeting. To my right, a cemetery with graves that have been there long before me and will remain long after and to my left, a cluster of large buildings with red brick that look like they belong more in Europe than in New Jersey. Scattered around my vision are trees holding onto their remaining leaves in shades of orange, yellow, and green. I’m wearing an orange shirt which makes me feel more apart of the landscape in some way.
Sometimes I wonder if this feeling is more a sense of longing than nostalgia. It’s a place that doesn’t quite feel like home but there is something in the air that makes it feel like it could be. Like my soul has been lingering somewhere between the cobblestone alleyways, pine trees, and old buildings. Certain places just have that undeniable charm, like this place and my soul are vibrating at the same frequency.
Being charmed by a place is a beautiful thing. I felt this way when I went to Paris for the first time and when I started making friends in college. You’re overcome with a feeling that you are exactly where you are suppose to be. Since graduating and moving back home, my overwhelming feeling has been one of displacement. That’s why when I visited my college for Homecoming, I had a hard time emotionally preparing myself for going back to my “home.”
The fear was not so much whether things would be like I had left them but whether I could find the person I was before I left. I found her in China this summer briefly, but the grind I experience everyday of being back home and feeling displaced had put me back into this sense of loss.
I was anxious about how the weekend would go and how I would feel going back to the place I’d lived and grown for 4 years. I hadn’t had a genuine social interaction in months and a part of me wondered who I’d be when I would.
I quickly found some friends in the library on that rainy Friday who had also graduated. Sitting around a table we’d all probably spent time cramming for exams or gossiping at one point or another, we shared our mutual experiences of displacement, loss, and uncertainty for the future. Talking to them, I got this feeling that I was bridging the gap between who I was in this space for 4 years and who I was becoming since. Turns out, we are all stuck in a transition, one that is painful at times, certainly uncomfortable, but namely: terribly lonely.
That weekend we were all coming back to our launch pad as if we missed some crucial directions before we set off back in May. Everyone tells you how hard “the real world” in terms of financials can be, but no one ever tells you how incredibly lonely it is.
Talking and spending time with my friends, visiting my old dorm, and seeing what everyone was getting into felt right and good, but it was only temporary relief from the reality of where we all were in our transition. That we would all be retreating back to where we found ourselves after graduation, only a little more driven to fight off this feeling of loneliness now knowing that our feelings were all very mutual.
Me going back for homecoming ended up being way less comforting then I had initially planned as it so blatantly pointed out how not at home I feel in my life. I cried on the way back feeling emotionally exhausted and confused as to where I needed to be going next. However, I had gained a helpful and very necessary reminder of who I am when I’m in my element.
I think all the throw pillows and Pinterest canvases have established that home is not a place, but a person. However, I’d like to think that home is really the place that vibrates at the same frequency you do. It’s how you don’t feel lonely when you’re in your favorite place alone or when you’re reading a good book or having a night of snacks & secrets between friends. That matched vibration is the exact opposite of feeling displaced and lonely.
And for a brief moment in a library I’ve never been in and will never be again, surrounded by books and leaves and movement, I found my vibration being matched. What I felt leaving homecoming was not knowing where I’d be finding my matched vibration next, but I understand now that it’s instinctual and if you let go, you’ll pull yourself there.