By Jasmine Jones
The best place to hide a note is in the ceiling. Or inside a couch; specifically, an old, broken one.
That is what I learned after searching my dorm building for all the places people ignore and forget. In those forgotten places, I placed a small piece of paper, a small piece of myself, and left, hoping the note and myself would stay there forever.
This ritual of hiding notes is something I’ve done in every place I’ve lived and left, and so far, I’ve only lived in three places: my childhood home and two dorm buildings half an hour’s drive from there. I hide my note on the day I move out of a place for good. Those days occurred after my freshman academic year ended in May 2019 and when everyone thought the world was ending in March 2020.
Each time, I wrote one sentence to encapsulate my time spent in those places. It took me a few days to figure out the best thing to write. It is quite hard to wrap up a year of life in one sentence, especially if that year is in the midst of a coming-of-age story — for me, freshman year of college.
Those transitional years, between high school and college, college and “adult life,” feel so eventful and raw, because everything is new. You feel exposed to the world and its overwhelming options for who you can be and who you can meet. During my freshman year of college, I felt this rawness as everything in my life shifted. Who I was and who I associated with changed. I made friends, lost friends and fell in love for the first time. The falling in love part really impacted this shift; it seemed like all I could think about was falling, and that someday, I would hit the ground.
When I think of freshman year and all those raw emotions, I picture four tan walls, an unstable rocking chair and an insanely high, lofted bed. I see my dorm room, because that’s where I spent so much time thinking through that transition. In a way, that space carried me towards what I felt during my sophomore year.
That second year, I experienced heartbreak for the first time. I kept changing my thoughts about so many things — interests, college majors, friends, beliefs. During that time, I felt like a walking green screen with backgrounds and colors constantly altering. It was a year of uncertainties. But as time went on, the backgrounds stopped changing so much, and I grew into myself and the woman I wanted to be, the woman I was already becoming.
When I think of sophomore year, I see four white walls, a worn-down carpet, a stale bathroom and another insanely high, lofted bed. All the pain and growth I experienced happened within that space, while I dreamed in my bed, got dressed in the bathroom and stared at those very blank walls. I knew both dorm rooms marked me and would stay with me. I wanted to stay with them, too. However, dorm rooms are liminal spaces; they are not built for staying. When you move in, you tack up posters with command strips so as to not damage the walls. You decorate with small rugs or fold-out chairs. No nails. No flooring. No paint. Everything placed in a dorm room must be easily removable. Nothing can leave a mark. If you leave a mark, you’re fined.
The next residents will walk into my dorm rooms, and they will not see the lives I lived in those spaces, just as I did not see the lives lived there before me. I am sure a lot has happened in those rooms, but all those stories have been erased with each move-out day.
Hiding a note is my protest to this. It is both a protest and tribute to the act of leaving, because leaving is a part of being human we can’t escape.
I will leave my childhood home someday. I will leave many places throughout my life. I know this. And I know I can’t carry walls with me, but it’s also not the walls that matter. It’s the time I spent there and what that time did to me, how that time moved me from being one person to becoming another stronger person. Those walls won’t change, but I will. I will continue finding ways to be, no matter where I am. That is what humans do. We adapt.
So, when I leave a note again, it will be a way to stay and recognize who I was there, and also to move on.
It will be a way of saying, Thank you. I am leaving for other walls now.