The Garden State of Mind

Going to boarding school presents numerous struggles, forewarned by parents, teachers, and other students. Get involved, but don’t get too involved. Eat breakfast. And please, for the love of God, don’t eat meals of just Oreos we sent to you in your care package. But, as I can attest from my own first days at Andover, you can’t prepare yourself for everything. Arriving as a new Upper, I tried to imagine as best I could the difficulty I would face, but I failed to think about preparing myself for prejudice. Andover is proported to be an accepting community, but unfortunately there seems to be an omission to that acceptance, and it’s the glory that is the place I am proud to call home: New Jersey. I’m going to let you in on a little known secret: New Jersey is the greatest state in the Union. We simply have to put on a charade to make sure everyone else doesn’t want to live there as well, because the Garden State is the most densely populated in America. Those smoke stacks you see on the highway? They’re just put there as safeguards for population control. Dig a little a deeper off the parkway, and you might see the lush, green lawns of suburbia, or where Ice-T was born. You might see the shore, not the beach, or a certain university that come March will be filled with transcripts from Phillips Academy. And when you pull over at the nearest Shell station, someone will most definitely be pumping your gas. It’s not just our landmarks that we Jerseyites hold dear. New Jersey has a famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) subculture. It follows that when I arrived here, I had a minor culture shock. Fist pumping to “Living on a Prayer” isn’t acceptable? Bruce Springsteen is oldpeople music? What is this place? There’s something about New Jersey that is more than just music and guidos, a something that can’t be replicated on any reality television show. New Jersey is about driving around at two a.m. and knowing that if you suddenly need cheese fries, there is a diner booth waiting for you. New Jersey is knowing that sixty miles an hour actually means eighty miles an hour. It’s knowing that you live in the best place on Earth. I hope I can impart even a fraction of the respect and admiration I hold for New Jersey. It may not be as foreign as Thailand and Kenya or as ridiculous as Canada, but I hold my head up proud when introducing myself from New Jersey amidst the other new uppers who hail from such places. Because I know in their deepest hearts, they are all jealous. Ben Romero is a new Upper from Chatham, NJ.