Bedroom of a ghost
I have a confession to make. I wasn’t excited or happy to be back home at the start of winter break. During the car ride from the airport to my house, all I could think of was how much I missed Boston and New House. Within a semester, I grew to love city life, exploring various places that were close to me on a whim. Seeing the endless suburban sprawl that lay in front of me as I stared out of my window made this feeling even worse. It was only the first day of break, yet I was already starting to count down the days till the first day of IAP.
Despite the warm atmosphere that I felt when I entered the kitchen, my feelings remain unchanged. The bedroom that I lived in for five years of my life felt distant and lonely. My bedroom hadn’t changed, yet reentering my room felt like I was invading the life of a ghost who spent weekends studying in her bedroom, refusing to take time to have fun when she needed it. I didn’t want to think about that past self.
Even though living in my bedroom was objectively better than my dorm room because of its privacy and quietness, the aspects that I once liked about my bedroom had lost their charm. Outside of my bedroom, the only other teenager I could talk to was my 16-year-old brother. So, I went back to my quarantine-like routine of talking to him every few hours while he played games or watched YouTube. I missed the ease of entering the iHouse kitchen and talking about all sorts of things with my friends, whether it was math in anime or the places we lived. I missed the countless light-hearted, funny dinner conversations I had at French House, in stark contrast to the quiet, serious meal conversations at home.
The first few days at home were dismal. I thought that I would get used to living back at home right away, but that wasn’t the case. I felt homesick for MIT. I didn’t want to be stuck in my house having nowhere to go besides the local middle school’s 400-meter track. I was tired of listening to my parents chide me for gaining weight. I couldn’t stand hearing my parents lecture me about how I needed to dress more fashionably. I knew they were genuinely concerned about me, but being a slightly recalcitrant teenager, I didn’t want to take their words in.
As the days passed, however, my attitude towards my house changed. The house that I once thought of as a stifling, confined place instead reminded me of Thoreau’s cabin. The feelings of isolation turned into solitude, a state that I began to appreciate. I spent the remaining days of the year achieving my annual reading goal of 55 books. During the busy weeks leading up to finals, I found keeping up with my reading goal while balancing my academics to be difficult, causing me to fall behind. I thought it was delusional to think that I could read another four books in two weeks to reach 55, but to my surprise, I managed to accomplish my goal. I devoted time after dinner to reading alone in my bedroom, allowing me to return to a state of mind that I hadn’t had in a long time: a sense of quietness and stillness. A sense of solitude.
There was a sort of unparalleled satisfaction when I entered this state. I was solely focused on the stories I was reading. No outside sources of distraction were there to steal my attention. Although it was nice to interact with people more often in college, I think I may have socialized a bit too much, considering that I am more introverted by nature. In other words, I did not have the proper balance of solitude and social time in college. As a result, I deprived myself of the solitude that was so necessary for refreshing my mind. My weekend nights in college left insufficient time for me to slow down, pause, and reflect.
Besides spending more time reading, I also used this period of isolation to think about changes I wanted to make for 2022. Although my fall semester did exhibit signs of personal growth, there were also some setbacks. I struggled to establish a regular exercise routine and ended up going beyond the unhealthy food limit that I once kept to. The time I went to bed gradually shifted an hour later. I knew early on that these were problems I needed to solve, yet I kept delaying the process since I didn’t take the time to sit down and reflect.
During winter break, however, the ample free time combined with my house’s solitary setting enabled me to confront these problems that I didn’t otherwise want to acknowledge. Normally, I would have recorded ideas in my journal as a form of self-reflection, but this time I simply sat and processed my parents’ discussion. After listening to them talk about my health, I took the time to contemplate what I wanted to achieve for 2022. As much as my parents wanted to help me, ultimately the decision was up to me. I could choose between continuing this unhealthy lifestyle, or embracing a more active and healthy one.
After a week of winter break passed by, I realized how therapeutic it was for me to come back home, which I hadn’t expected. The habits that I used to maintain before coming to college returned. Reading for an hour made me want to go to bed by 10:30 p.m., something that I didn’t experience in my dorm room. Living in an environment that was devoid of many sweets and desserts was difficult at first, but eventually, I no longer felt the sugar craving that I developed in college. I went back to playing piano, something that I barely spent time on in college, and attempted to play pieces like The Lark. After more than a year of not running a mile, I picked up my former hobby of jogging once again, listening to a podcast while I ran a couple of laps around the track.
When it was time for me to return to the airport once again on New Year’s Day, I looked back on winter break with gratitude. Yes, I sometimes felt lonely at home. But the solitude I experienced was essential, acting as a reset button for the upcoming year, as it forced me to reflect upon what truly mattered to me in life.