When people asked me where I wanted to live post-graduation, New Jersey was always a worst-case scenario. But here, I am, writing in this in the coffee shop I frequented in high school (thankfully, the wifi password hasn’t changed in over 6 years).
I’ve written about coming for summer and winter breaks, and how strange it feels coming back as a changed person, to a place that remained, for the most part, unchanged. But back then, we were always guests in our nostalgia. Our moms doted on us, we caught up with old friends, and spent an inordinate amount of time watching Netflix. But we have returned for real, migratory birds trying to make a new life.
It’s particularly difficult for those of us who went to school in a city and returned to a less than cosmopolitan home. Every time I came home during college, I never slept well the first few nights. My bed felt strange, it was too quiet, the house was dark by 9:30 pm. There aren’t too many places to go: the mall, the movie theater, a few parks and coffeeshops. Forget about a fun night at your neighborhood bar, you have to stay sober enough to drive yourself home and your mom will worry if you’re out too late anyways. You have left your college community, and the city or town in which it was, and you don’t know how to make friends. You’re not sure where to find them. You’re remembering that it’s really not cool to sleep past 9 pm on the weekend.
It’s not a bad life. No rent, no bills, a well-stocked fridge and pantry. But you also feel lonely and isolated, and yet again, feel like real life is on pause. But it really isn’t on hold, this is real life, and it’s happening and don’t waste it by turning into the sulky teenager you were the last time you lived here. You’re still 22 and you may feel like you’re dying but you’re not dead yet.