Home: Camden, New Jersey?

“It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.”
– Bob Proctor

This quote coincidentally came up on my Momentum dashboard this afternoon, along with a photo of Scotland which made my heart both ache and sing for a trip that is now just a memory and a bunch of words scribbled in my journal. It’s a quote I really needed to hear because the past three weeks I’ve been debating on whether or not it was time to pack up and head to a new country, new college, new life.

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Staying in one place isn’t easy. I don’t know why, but I’m just not built to do it. I don’t think I was made to set roots and stay long enough to watch them bloom. I grew up traveling and it became a habit, routine, stability. Funny, huh, my stability came from change.

The initial move to a new place is always wonderful; enticing and inviting, but that nuance wears off and fast. Within months I find myself changing the arrangement of my bedroom and start scraping the posters off my walls. I feel the desire to throw out my entire closet to replenish it with a new, completely different style and I start to hate the view out my window. Recently, I’ve come into some bad luck which resulted in me blaming the location and brought the constant thought that I don’t belong here. I need to move away. 

I’ve been in Camden, New Jersey for a little under a year and a half. Out of all the places I’ve lived in, this one is the most important because it is where I chose to be. Granted, I do feel like I “ended up” here since I didn’t give much thought into where I was applying to university and I never visited the campus beforehand, I did choose Rutgers. Moving here was incredible. My own life, full independence, I could do whatever I wanted to do. And I did! I jumped into Rutgers head first and immediately got involved. I would make this place home, and I did for a good year.

When I would visit family in New Jersey during the holidays, my grandfather often took me across the river and into Philadelphia. Little did 12-year-old Claire know, she was passing by the University she would eventually go to.  I don’t think I saw many bridges abroad and this one just drew me in. I took a bunch of photos every time we drove over it. And again, little did 12-year-old Claire know, that is the bridge I saw every night outside my bedroom window Freshman year of college. That is the bridge I run across during sunset and breathe in the Philadelphia skyline. That bridge was the first and main reason I call this place home. I came full circle, how could I have known what an impact my love for that bridge would have for me? There must be a reason. At least that is what I like to tell myself.

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Summer Sunset on the Ben Franklin Bridge

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Sometimes I’d run all the way into Philadelphia and to Race Street Pier. The view is of Camden.

I finished my first year of university in stride. Two jobs, five classes, Psychology research, and even won “Citizen of the Year” award for the dormitories. I found new coffee shops in Philadelphia every weekend to do homework in and I made Dean’s List. My life was terrific. Summer came around and with my parents in Florida, I decided to stay here and work to save some money which wasn’t the greatest idea.

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One of my many coffee shops: Function Coffee Labs

Summer was a bummer. I worked at a security desk most days, watching the street for eight hours which turned into a drag. I moved into a new dorm and lost the view of the bridge which was traded for a view of parking garages and the campus entrance. I went to San Francisco for the weekend, but other than that my summer consisted of staying within a two-block radius since I worked on-campus and lived on-campus. Philadelphia was my only getaway and even that city I know like the back of my hand now. I went to a concert or two, took myself on sushi dates (and even went on a couple of actual dates), but it wasn’t the kind of excitement I was looking for. I was so claustrophobic.

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This was my view while laying in bed in my Freshman dorm.

Eventually, the beginning of my sophomore year came around and I greeted it with open arms. I soon became disappointed. I ended up quitting one of my jobs and finding a different one, became dissatisfied with my classes, and the cold was getting in the way of my runs on my favorite bridge. By the end of the semester, I was beat. I didn’t study for finals because I was just so tired of everything–the same buildings, seats, view, streets, same-old-fucking-routine. I still did well, but my motivation took a beating. I left for the U.K. for winter break to restore my travel itching and it was wonderful (see previous posts).

I came back to Camden in January and my heart was heavy. I wasn’t ready to come back, I could have kept going, but that’s not how it works. Not only was I missing traveling, but on the second day of the semester, I got into a huge altercation with the university. Without giving too much away, I felt let down by some of the administration at my college due to an awful circumstance. I felt like Camden had betrayed me. The people I had expected to take care of me did not and I blamed the location. Suddenly, all my problems were because of Camden. It’s got such a bad rep, it’s got to be the problem! I just need to move. Camden, Camden, Camden. How could you?

It’s been two weeks since the incident and for two weeks I’ve been going back and forth between transferring and moving abroad to staying and continuing my college career here, and I think I’ve come to a decision.

Camden isn’t the greatest piece of land and spending your entire life in a two-block radius will make anybody stir crazy. Would I be happier somewhere else? Maybe. And I won’t know until I go there. But, it all comes down to this: I’m 19 years old. I’ve already moved so much that it couldn’t hurt to learn what it’s like to grow some roots; to have a place to come back to after traveling. I don’t think I’ll stay here after I graduate, but I will graduate here. I’ve realized moving won’t make me happier, I’m just repeating the same cycle. Here, I can expand myself. I’m not particularly happy at the moment, but changes will be made and future trips are already being planned, but this is a good place to call home.

At least for now.

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