Illustration by Alice Maiden

Intersession made me sad because I realized that I really don’t belong at home anymore. It might not be mine. Things felt perfect, just the way they used to, but also a little off. My room was mine and my bed was mine but all of the things that made it mine were back in Princeton: my pictures and posters and blankets; clothes, a full-length mirror and recent memories. My mom made my favorite foods but I felt like a visitor – only there for a short time, seeing the best side of the green-shuttered house in Richmond, Virginia, before I left again.

On the second to last day of break I went to the public library. I sat in my old study spot: the square table between the adult nonfiction section and the adult fiction section. My back faced the librarians and I couldn’t read or focus on anything because I couldn’t stop remembering memories. All of the exam weeks and late nights and trying-not-to-laugh moments that I’d had in this space, in this spot, with people who now live in Georgia and Charlottesville and New York City and Ann Arbor. The table was new too, brown and gleaming – without the back-and-forth back-and-forth, back-and-forth, I have an exam tomorrow marks of my pencil, no grooves on the corner from the scratching. A group of high school girls came in, laughing, and I left.

On the last day of break I peeled myself out of bed and went to my old high school. I got lunch with close friend. As I sat and talked with her, I watched juniors waltz through the senior section and spread out on the couches and talk about the latest prep school gossip. I felt myself getting irritated until I remembered that they were the seniors now, this was normal, and it was really me who was the outsider. Their liveliness stared me down, burrowing in my chest until the nostalgia that had really led me there was revealed. I didn’t belong in this senior section, because I’m a freshman again and I really don’t go there anymore. The Collegiate School is not where I belong. Those teachers are no longer my teachers. All my friends are gone.

I wonder if that’s why we return to old spaces – to propel ourselves forward by facilitating the realization that we can never go back. We think, “I better make this work because there is no more that.”

I remember when I was little, in the third grade at my tiny Catholic school. Everything seemed grand to me. Milestones meant more (a birthday really meant a whole year had passed on Earth AND I got presents AND probably a party too) and I would think about offhand comments from older girls for days. One week after eighth grade graduation, when the big kids were gone but the rest of us were still attending class and dreaming of summer, almost every newly graduated girl made her way through the halls. Out of uniform, glossy hair pressed back by their sunglasses, carting around salads in takeout boxes. They would chat with our teachers. They looked so tall. Told us little kids how excited they were for high school. Excited to ditch the plaid kilts and socks for plain kilts, lower socks, the sweet freedom of slightly less regimented days. (It would be high school, but still Catholic, after all).

They were propelling themselves forward with the reminder that they could never be us again: little girls in plaid kilts and knee socks, dreaming of summer days and cherry popsicles.