Whenever I walk by Prospect Garden, I cannot help but compare Princeton students to the flowers in the garden. I do this on multiple levels: aesthetically we are diverse like the flowers. Like the flowers, we, too, seem to have created our own little garden on the Princeton campus. Sure, people leave the campus and go to Nassau Street, or Prospect Avenue, but on a whole the students definitely seem to feel most comfortable when they’re hanging out on the actual campus, or very nearby.
We also change physically with the seasons the way that flowers do. This was something that I noticed recently. As the flowers face winter, they change their image by shriveling up. Princeton students do not necessarily physically shrivel, but we certainly become harder to distinguish among each other, as our clothes become heavier, our sleeves become longer, and we bring our warm, woolen hats out of our closets and onto our heads.
However, as I extended this flower metaphor in my head, I grew worried that there was a whole unspoken part of being like flowers that really wasn’t so, well, rosy. Like the flowers do, when the winter comes we run the chance of wilting, shuddering in the cold and turning our backs to the clouds that will probably bring nothing but snow and sleet for months. Some students feel the urge to stay holed up in their rooms as much as possible so as to avoid the blistering cold.
While, yes, we could physically turn away from the sun, as we want to hide away in our dorms, we could also do something much more severe: we could turn away, as we often want to, from the academics, in a sense, giving up on our educations and merely holding on for dear life while we juggle multiple finals, papers, take-homes, and God knows what other painful obstacles that we meet along the way. We could turn away from the Street, or BlackBox, or any number of social venues, giving up on seeing friends because the cold makes it too hard to socialize. The cold could end up freezing not only our toes, but also our ability hang out with friends.
So does this happen? To quote the Draconian’s popular song “Seasons Apart”: And winter came too soon, and will the flowers die; / Bow down their heads under the cold, cold sky?” Said differently: come winter, do Princeton students shrivel up like the flowers?
Last year, as a freshman, I thought I knew it all: walking to the Street, chewing my Raspberry Mint Orbit gum, and pretending like I had already figured everything out that there was to figure out about college. When one of my friends at another school asked me how winter was at Princeton, even though I had never even gone through a winter here, I assumed that I knew the answer: “Oh, it becomes dead,” I said, with a shrug of my shoulders. “Everything just sort of shuts down and people only focus on work, and then it gets better during the spring again.”
But oh, was I wrong. What I should have done, instead of answering with my smart-alecky, know-it-all-attitude, was send him a quote from the same song by Draconian that I quoted above: “Winter came far too soon, but the flowers still bloom.”
Although song quotes never solved world hunger or genocide, it is safe to say that those quotes can assure us that all hope is not lost for the students of Princeton. Why can I be so sure? Well, to put it bluntly: we go to Princeton. If there’s one thing that we know how to do, it’s how to have a good time in the face of pressure (even if the pressure comes both from the classroom and from the seasons).
So picture it again: me, walking out to the Street, assuming that even though it was a Saturday night, it was probably going to be dead, because it was too cold for any normal human being to be outside unless he or she was wearing some kind of heating device all over his or her body. I basically thought it was going to be so dead at every eating club that I started imagining the conversations I would have to have with myself, asking me about my day and who I had seen (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. I didn’t think it would be that empty, but I definitely thought it would be pretty close).
Then all of a sudden: what was that noise? Is there a person out here besides just me?
I turn around and see that no, there’s not just a person. There were tons of people! And they were all standing outside the clubs like it was one hundred degrees outside, acting just as wild as students do during the fall, not more so. I went up to a girl who was yelling so loudly and excitedly that I thought I was in an episode of America’s Next Top Model right after the model-hopefuls have found out that they’re going to some foreign country, like Africa or Spain. “What’s the commotion?” I asked as we stood in front of Ivy, half expecting her to tell me that we were all going to Bali together.
“Someone felt a snowflake!” she answered excitedly. “Can you believe it? We’re finally getting snow!”
As I stood there with the other students, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe we do not react to winter the exact same way that flowers do. If students can have a ball at Princeton during midterms, during finals in the spring, and even with our normal workloads constantly in our faces, would something as silly as winter actually be able to bring us down? I quickly learned the answer to this question on my own, as I went out that night and had a crazy time, and continued to learn just as hard in my classes the next day: no, winter does not bring us down. The classes during the winter are usually actually even more exciting than during the fall, because at that point students have already gotten into the rhythm of classes, seminars are becoming more intimate, and lectures are starting to delve into deeper topics.
In fact, winter quickly became one of my favorite seasons on campus as I learned that it can actually be even more fun than spring or fall, what with snowball fights, sliding along the sleet, and watching California kids see snow for the first time.
Moreover, just when the winter season feels like it’s going to become oppressive, what with finals starting to weigh us down, spring springs, as if sensing that we’ve had enough of the cold for the time being. At this point, I think it’s appropriate to bring back the flower analogy (I know, I know, it’s pretty corny—but I think it’s also pretty accurate so I’m just going to go with it): now, once we enter spring once again, we can relate to flowers much more easily, and we resemble them much more, as they return to full bloom. We emerge in the spring like bright new flowers, having had countless snowball fights, made new friends, learned new things in classes, lost a glove or two, and maybe even figured out some things about ourselves along the way, if we were lucky.
So if you’re a freshman reading this, I can happily tell you not to despair as the cold, cold winter descends upon us. To quote that Draconian song again, “The hope runs dry, and the words of comfort; I heard how they cracked…” No, just kidding—that quote doesn’t quite fit with my sentiments about winter, if you couldn’t already tell. I can’t say with total confidence that many other parts of that song actually appropriately fit into this more uplifting, glass-is-half-full part of my flower-theory. What I can say with total confidence, though, is that now when a friend asks me how winter is at Princeton, I’ll be able to safely say to him or her, “Awesome! While the flowers in Prospect Garden hide away from the blast of cold, we all just have a straight-up blast.”