Bright Collaged Bits, OR an Alma Mater Love Letter

A while back, a few students at my university started a school “admirers” page on Facebook. People would anonymously submit affectionate shoutouts to be posted by the admins in the form of a status. The page was shut down a few months ago because Facebook realized it wasn’t an actual person, but if it (or something like it) were still to exist, I imagine I would “admire” Princeton as a very recent alum in the following way:

Nassau Hall from Cannon Green, April 2014.

When I think of this place I see a thousand flashes of memory all at once, each one looping over and over the same few seconds of footage, as if all those moments are still happening, happening everywhere, happening simultaneously—a collage in motion.

Rockefeller College, April 2014.

This is my love note to that collection of bright collaged bits, my love note to those lonely uncomfortable freshman weeks seeking out stilted dining hall conversation, my love note to those first precepts, my love note to the early papers I didn’t quite know how to write (as well as later papers for which I didn’t have much time). It is my love note to my friend who hugs a little too tightly, to the friend who wears the toe shoes we joke about, to the musical friend, to the friend with big hair and the friend who cooks, and to the friend with a fondness for performing full tea ceremonies in times of stress, and it is my love note to the first long conversations that we had, the crucial ones that made us feel a little less lonely in the beginning. It’s a love note to late meal quesadillas. Or late meal Snapple, or both. And it’s a love note to the way we gingerly plant our feet around patches of sidewalk ice in the winter to keep from falling.

Lockhart Hall, May 2014.

This is a love note to the hundreds of mini love notes posted here, none of them for me. It is a love note to a well-thumbed Lacan text, to wrapping people’s birthday gifts in the discarded title sheets of printed precept readings, to not having to buy a course packet for that one class after all, and a love note to sad whiskey shots over an even sadder weekend in the company of an understanding friend. It is a love note to grudgingly tumbling out of bed over a weeklong break to trudge down in the cold to a different dining hall for brunch, to tiptoeing around freshly emerged worms in the minutes after rainfall, to getting rocks in our shoes on the gravel walkway behind Nassau Hall. It’s my love note to basements and common rooms. It’s a love note to passing beneath the dimly lit window of someone you might’ve once been in love with and wondering briefly if they could ever have loved you, too. And it is a love note to the magnificent changing of the seasons, any seasons, on campus.

Mathey residential college Cinco de Mayo event, 2014.

And it’s a love note to love—to being turned down and trodden upon and maybe having a little too much to drink on the Street afterwards. It is a love note to those repeated safety alerts from Donald P. Reichling and to the way the dining staff gets so excited to dress up for Halloween and put little witch hat decorations on top of the salad bar, as well as to the snazzy new couch in a much-loved professor’s cozy office. It’s a love note to the Nass-generated nickname “Christopher Stalken.” It is also a love note to unexpectedly finding a favorite childhood melody in the repertoire of the university orchestra, a love note to a 2 am U-Store run, a love note to Wa-wiches and the old Dinky and a Small World coffee addiction. It’s a love note to a delightfully short line at Labyrinth, to being showered with champagne to loud music, to that friend who will unfailingly lend you their lecture notes, to late-night p-set collaborations and this campus’s passionate love affair with Apple laptops, and maybe even to all the salmon hued shorts and brightly colored bowties that invariably turn up at every round of lawnparties. It is a love note to a short and lonely time abroad spent wishing to return.

Senior step sing, June 2014.

And this is a love note to surprisingly moving office discussions (some up to 2 hours long), a love note to staying up for 30 consecutive hours to finish a project we didn’t think we could complete. It’s my love note to Hoagie Haven takeout in the basement of Campbell, to watching the sunrise with friends on Dean’s Date and having omelets together afterwards, to running errands in pajamas, to lightly padding across a dewy Poe Field just after midnight. It is also a love note to the smell of aging pages in a library corner where the lights have stopped working, a love note to falling asleep in a cushy Chancellor Green armchair, a love note to the feeling of working in a common room with people and books and papers sprawled all over the floors, a love note to finding a favorite TV season for three bucks at P-Rex and taking it home, a love note to dipping bare feet in the fountain or climbing too many steps to see a friend on the top floor of a building or having too many cookies in one night at Murray-Dodge.

Commencement ceremony, June 2014.

This is a love note to procrastinating by watching TV with friends in the dark, underneath homemade quilts, a love note to group de-stressing with video games and pizza, a love note to spending way too much time in the dining hall almost every evening, a love note to late night talks on the steps of Blair Arch, and a love note to all the times someone told me they would stay up with me if I needed it, and even if they were busy. Most of all it is a love note to those people — those with patience so unflagging that they’ve stuck with me for four years and probably will keep doing so beyond ~  

Commencement recessional through FitzRandolph Gate, June 2014.

– from March 2014


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