Each day, I would eagerly bounce along the turquoise-railed hallway of rooms all the way to the last one, the most mysterious and elusive of them all. Opening the door was like unlocking a portal to whole new world. The soft honey-colored light that filled the room had grown to represent a maternal embrace. It was my safe haven. Although I slept, ate, studied, ran around, and drew on the whiteboards, both pealing out laughter and shedding tears in that room, I never truly stepped through the doorway, never truly crossed the barrier to the room. There was an avoidable sense of hesitance and fear of being rejected from the place I most wanted to belong in.
Only later did it occur to me that same room that represented my home away from home, where I had found so much comfort and security on campus, turned out to be a venomous, parasitical monster, feeding on my attachment to it and fostering an exclusive and cultish community. There is now enough spatial and temporal difference between myself and the room, along with all the painful memories attached to it, and I am starting to unclench my resentful grip. And as the distance has allowed me to reflect more objectively, epiphany struck me like a slap in the face: it’s not the room that was toxic, no! It was my relentless and obsessive memory of it.
I was not actively seeking a new home away from home to replace that room, yet I can’t say I was avoiding it either. There is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu when I climb up three flights of stairs and walk past the offices, feeling a gust of cool air as I push open the door to the new room on the other side of the planet. This one is cool rather than warm, white rather than honey colored, and scattered with candy-apple green chairs and wooden tables, bookshelves, and colorful stars made from construction paper rather than periodic tables, flasks, and science-related cartoons. But there is an uncanny similarity – in even as I sit there, very much inside the room, I feel a definite absence of contact with the place and an overwhelming sense of longing to reach out and close the gap. Perhaps it is better to stay here, with a healthy sense of tension, in the periphery. I wouldn’t want to taint my perception of my new safe haven and risk losing it permanently.