When I moved to Princeton in seventh grade, my parents tried to convince me it was a good thing—without success.
They told me that I would make new friends, I would like the area, and I could still visit my old friends 45 minutes away twice a month. I rolled my eyes and sighed. I was promised that we would have a nice house, a good school, and friendly neighbors. I tuned them out and slammed the door.
It took several years of living here for me to finally admit to my parents that moving was, in fact, a good thing. But the reason that Princeton won me over isn’t the same as any of the arguments they used to attempt to appease a 13-year-old’s irrationality. Rather, it’s the sheer number of opportunities Princeton offers in terms of community groups, social events, and cultural centers—there’s a huge number of things to do around town and in neighboring areas, which is something that we should take advantage of.
Coming from a town with a smaller population and also less of a social scene, I can appreciate Princeton’s vitality and strong sense of community—but I fear that for those who have lived here longer, many of Princeton’s special offerings have lost meaning. The University, the busy downtown, and cultural centers like the Arts Council create a Princeton identity that really is unique, but underappreciated—underappreciated in the sense that we often choose not to acknowledge the luck (or fortune, if you don’t believe in luck) of our ability to call a place like this home. I’m proud to go to Princeton High School, and not just because we have the best heating and cooling system in the county.
There are so many reasons to be thankful for the town that we live in or live near (I’m looking at you, Cranbury kids), so many opportunities to make use of, and so many reasons to enjoy Princeton that don’t just stop at the perpetual ranking of snobbiest town in New Jersey.
And even though typical complaints about Princeton include high prices and even higher taxes, remember to appreciate aspects of living here that come for free—if you know where to look.
When’s the last time that you went to the Princeton Public Library to attend an event, check out a museum pass that will get you free admission to places like MoMA, Grounds for Sculpture, and the Guggenheim, or even check out a book? When’s the last time you hiked in Mountain Lakes or biked on the towpath, even if it was a little cold? When’s the last time that you went to one of the hundreds of free lectures Princeton University opens to the public, even if it was for extra credit? I hope it was recently, because seriously—why not?
Because we live in Princeton, we’re privileged. And I don’t mean economically privileged or socially privileged or academically privileged, although any number of those may be true. I mean that we have the privilege of having access to events that exist solely to enrich our understanding of the world. We have these great resources at our disposal—use them; what’s the point of letting them go to waste?