In New Jersey

Ivy Xie

When people want to go on vacation, most of them would not come to New Jersey. New Jersey is only known for being right next to New York, and maybe for having a lot of diners - which just goes to show how boring this state is. But I believe that those who find New Jersey uninteresting have never really explored the heart of the Garden State. Personally, from my childhood to now, New Jersey has provided me with countless adventures, scenic views, fascinating history, and most importantly, a sense of home.

Although I have little family history in this country, New Jersey was the first place my parents settled when they landed in America. They both came here from China with bundles of hopes and dreams- for America was a country with endless opportunities, a guarantee for a better life. My mom ended up in graduate school at Princeton, and my dad at Rutgers. They struggled with finances and school, the language, the culture, and being so far away from home. But in the end, they formed many unbreakable bonds, and learned more than they had their entire life. Job opportunities eventually brought them to San Diego, and after raising me for eight years in the heat of California, my parents finally returned to their first home. There was one small difference: I also came with them.

I remember the first day in our new house. It was rented and rather small, but I loved it. My room had a secret passageway, leading straight to my parents bedroom. It fulfilled any eight year old girl’s dream: it was cramped, dark, and always smelled of new wood, creating a sense of mystery but also safety and security. That passageway was full of childhood laughter and imagination. Whenever my friends would come over, that was the first place I would show them, and we would spend hours darting in and out. On my first week in my new home, I also had my first true encounter with nature. In California, all the houses were very close together, so I never had a big yard I could play in. But in New Jersey, my backyard was limitless, a huge grassy plain surrounded by woods. For any New Jerseyan, seeing rabbits, squirrels, and deer in their backyard is a regular occurrence. But the first time it occured, I was astonished. The fact that such magnificent animals were in my own backyard, maybe only a few feet apart from me, made my young heart swell.

In middle school, I had a once in a lifetime interaction with nature. By that time, I still delighted in spotting beautiful birds, such as the blue jay. Blue jays always seemed so magical and majestic to me, with their brilliant blue feathers and the black choker around their neck. They reminded me of Cinderella, my favorite Disney princess growing up. So when blue jays started coming regularly to a pine tree right outside my bedroom window, I was delighted. Eventually, I realized that they were actually building a nest in the pine tree, and became so excited that I literally started jumping around the house squealing. Everyday after that, I would watch the blue jay family for hours on end after I got out of school. It was truly a life changing experience to watch the cycle of life unfold before my eyes. I was able to watch the hardworking parents bring build a nest from scratch and lay beautiful speckled eggs. I was able to see the mother bring back food for the eager pale pink heads once they hatched, and watch those heads change color. One day, when I got home from school, I found the nest empty - I was devastated. But now, I feel certain that the little birds in fact did fly away, as all youngsters must do from their parents. Watching that magical experience truly opened my eyes to the importance of life, and the cycle that it must undertake.

My childhood was also filled with countless adventures around New Jersey. Of course, one of my first destinations had to be in Princeton - the place where my mother first started her life in America. Now, I’ve been on the Princeton campus more times than I can count, but that first visit was astonishing. The campus was massive, and was the epitome of a balance of nature and man-made structures. The architecture was very impressive - you could see that everything was intricately designed and built, with many beautiful engravings and details. Surrounding each building were towering trees, lush grass, and of course, squirrels. I was also amazed that there was an art museum inside of the school campus, and even a sculpture garden with charming little plots full of blooming flowers. What amazed me even more was the history of Princeton. The fact that it was the eighth college to be founded in America, and that Revolutionary battles had been fought in that town, blew my mind. Even more, it made me feel pride to live in a place with so much history.

My other memorable adventure among many was my first trip to the Liberty Science Center. I remember enjoying myself immensely after exploring every exhibit, and being surprised by it. After all, weren’t all the interesting museums in New York City? Apparently, I had proved myself wrong.

Last summer, I actually worked as a volunteer in the Liberty Science Center. When I was looking through old pictures recently, I came across some pictures of me visiting the Science Center when I was younger. I had forgotten about that experience, and felt extremely strange when I saw myself playing in the same places I had spent hours working in in the summer. In the picture, I was the guest, and someone else was a volunteer, talking to me. Little did I know that six years later, that girl and I would switch places. I think what I found strange was that some things change so drastically, yet others never change. The Liberty Science Center looked exactly the same, yet I appeared completely different. But I felt, inside, that I was still that same nine year old girl. Life really does come full circle.

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