As part of the Division of Student Affairs’ initiative for Diversity and Inclusion, we at I Am Rutgers have started the #RUIDProject to highlight the many diverse identities, experiences, and reflections of the Rutgers student body. Students featured in this project share how they choose to identify themselves and how Rutgers either helps them express their identity or has helped shape their identity. If you would like to be featured in this project, share a picture of yourself and how you choose to identify using the hashtag #RUIDProject on Instagram or contact us via email.
Home has always been a weird notion for me. I immigrated here when I was two from a little island in the Philippines, but if you ask me, I’ll probably give you an answer that just isn’t true:
“Piscataway, born and raised.”
Piscataway: Founded around 1666, and currently drowning in strip malls and condensed housing.
Piscataway: The concrete-swallowed town with one tract of rural land barely left in it.
Piscataway: Home to no less than three Quick Cheks.
Quiet and nondescript as it stretches for a few exits down 287.
I’ve spent twenty or so years in this town, and now I’m about to graduate in its backyard.
And that’s a really odd feeling, being that the plan since high school has sort of been to get out – you know, that all too familiar suburban mantra – leave the town that raised you as far back in your dust as you can. But plans tend to get weird the closer you get to having to carry them out.
Rutgers taught me that pretty well.
I went into college wanting an English degree. I’d always been a writer – it was all I knew. But I didn’t want to teach, even if that seemed to be the question that kept coming up whenever I told anyone my major. My classes were more than an indication of that. Yeah, I enjoyed the books we read, but analyzing them felt more tedious than useful. Going into academia for the sake of rejoining it later, or writing for it post-graduation just didn’t appeal to me much after the first three semesters packed to the brim with nothing but English courses.
So I refocused. Rutgers, thankfully, gave me a lot of leeway for that.
A second major in journalism looked appealing for a while, but I realized pretty quickly I didn’t want that much, either. Too rigid – too direct for my taste. But something clicked down the line. I think it was after I took a few DCIM (Digital Communication, Information and Media) courses and decided I wanted that to be my minor that I started adapting my work for more of a public eye. Poems and stories scrawled into notebooks and read for creative writing courses gave way to blog entries, and photography, and eventually YouTube videos centered – for now, at least – around telling stories from people that grew up in this place. People that have seen the face of this town shift, but have never forgotten the feeling of it when it was younger. A feeling you can’t shake. The feeling of home, and everything associated with it. The undeniable memory, the need to escape, the safe place to return, the roots dug in so deep they show in everything that you do.
College does a lot of things, but if you’re lucky, and if you look hard enough, it’ll show you what you want out of life. The photos, the blogs, the videos I go out and shoot with friends – I feel like they’re me getting closer. I’m in love with the idea of place, and memory, and feeling; I want to tell those stories in a way that gets to people, in a way that isn’t just on a page somewhere.
This old town was nice enough to give me my first few stories to tell. Soon, it’ll be time to head elsewhere, and see what those places give me.
By Pat Nadolski