It’s not that I miss home in a way that pains me, it’s just a sense of being very, very alone. Really it should be inconsequential: I’m in a place I’ve been several times before anyway, a place that looks like where I grew up, a place that should by all means feel like a home of its own. Other people are coming from other states, other countries, beaches, mountains, places as unfamiliar to me as this one is to them. And yet I am the one lost, sequestering myself, finding the most self-recognition in self-isolation. I have more fun in astronomy class than trying to get to know people because my classes make me feel like I belong and everything else, contrary to what you’d expect, seems to set me apart. So I set myself apart, because then at least it’s voluntary.

It’s cold in the science building. That’s where I do my homework now, and it’s where most of my classes are, as well as the observatory perched at one of the highest points on campus. They don’t let first years up there on their own, but some nights the senior astronomy majors will open it up and let us squint through the eyepiece at Andromeda, or the Ring Nebula, or some globular cluster, the classification of which they argue over as the massive column turns its lens across the sky. I feel comfortable there, in the red light.

Maybe it’s better this way.

It is hard for me to open up, to ask for help. I am always afraid that even by talking about my day I’ll be monopolizing a conversation, not letting the other person get a word in edgewise—that I’ll be annoying, obnoxious, Why does she think we want to hear about this? But in some moments, when my texts to friends with actual questions or important information go unanswered, that fear turns to anger. I don’t deserve much, I think, but I deserve better. So I sit here in the cold science building as the sun ticks towards the horizon, a headache splitting both temples, not knowing whether I can go back to my room to get my physics textbook, because my roommate had a Skype session with her cello teacher this afternoon and she isn’t answering her phone. Back home, my parents are throwing our annual end-of-summer potluck and celebrating my father’s birthday, which is today, as I’m writing this. And it’s not that I miss home in a way that pains me, it’s just a sense of being very, very alone.

My parents will read this, and worry, and from afar I’ll do my best to tell them not to; being alone has never bothered me. I guess what bothers me is that the world condemns me for preferring my textbooks to campus events crammed with bodies, that the world tells me I’ll never get the real “college experience” if I’m not hungover in the bathroom on Saturday morning, that there must be something wrong with me if I’m not chomping at the bit when it comes to parties and and fooling around and neglecting my studies.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. But maybe—I mean, have they considered that for me—maybe it’s better this way?

(Oh, and happy birthday, Dad.) ♦