I write this in the air, en route to San Francisco for spring break, over what might be Pennsylvania. I guess Pennsylvania because we took off from Newark maybe an hour ago, but I can't be sure, because the view out the window is unremittingly black. Not that my advanced training in airborne state identification is known to function better during, say, afternoon teatime. Not that it matters where exactly I am, either. I was preparing for the constricted but uninterrupted flight in my customary window seat when it became apparent that no neighbors would be arriving. Now I'm all moved in. I'm tapping away in the middle seat, my elbows swinging as wide as they care. My backpack is stowed safely under the seat in front, and to the right, of me; my magazines sit on the seat to my left. My pillow and blanket await me, should the urge arise (and it might: I'm still recovering from staying up all night Thursday-Friday polishing an essay) in the seat to my right. My tomato juice rests on the tray to my left, safely out of reach of the expensive electronics. I've done everything but urinate authoritatively on the nearest tree. For the next five hours, this space belongs to me. First class or otherwise, I'm as comfortable as anyone writing on an airplane has ever been. Dinner will be delivered any minute. Ah, here it is.

Whence this preoccupation with my surroundings? In part, it's because lately I've been a frequent traveler. After the new year, my first weekend at home was in February. On consecutive weekends, I visited Nathan in Philadelphia, a bunch of you in Cleveland, and another bunch of you in Boston, and capped it off with a long sunny Ultimate-filled weekend in Phoenix. It's been over a month since that last one. Good thing I'm back on a plane or I might have started turning into a homebody.

In also part, it's because I moved two weeks ago. I know, I know, doesn't it seem like I just got to New York a few months ago? Don't worry, it's not a sign of wanderlust. Via the transfer lottery, I was lucky enough to score a room in the same building that's 50% larger. My God, the difference is amazing. No gymnastics needed to get in and out. Room for activities other than sleeping — notably, for practicing on my digital piano, which is what prompted the move. A spare bed for visitors. (Please come visit!) A small in-room refrigerator all to myself. Accessible storage space above the closet. Two windows, both facing an interior courtyard rather than the noisy street. Flatmates who not only speak English but also don't mind speaking. In short, the new place is completely livable. Those of you who saw the old one will know that this represents a fantastic improvement.

And on the metaphysical plane, it's because last week I wrote about how I made the discovery last year that “I belonged somewhere other than where I was.” Am I now where I should be?

The room upgrade is a clue. Well into my second semester at college, my biggest problem was neither academic nor social. Of all the adjustments I'd made, housing had gone by far the least smoothly. All things considered, it was a nice problem to have. And now it's solved.

In campus life, I'm not quite in my element, but I'm finding it. Presumably on the strength of my rookie performance at the Bad Poetry Contest, the debate society elected me to the position of Whip, wherein I'm responsible for announcing each weekly meeting by email in a witty manner. This is a nice little creative outlet for me and my close personal friends, words. And my professional technical expertise, rather than being rendered instantly obsolete by not pertaining to my studies, still applies. A friend mentioned that she was having difficulty with an introductory computer programming assignment in Java, and I had a fantastic afternoon teaching her some of the tricks of the trade. She hadn't known how expressive and fun programming could be, and now she gets it in a way that many professional programmers never do. And of course it amuses me that she learned it from a freshman.

Speaking of my freshmanness, not everything has been such smooth sailing. Being eight years older than classmates is either too much or not enough: some of them are able to see me as a peer, some aren't. Likewise in the other direction. It helps on both sides of the divide that I remember what it was like to be that age, and that I can outwardly turn back the clock some. Still, navigating the social scene requires case-by-case evaluation. After a theater performance in which I knew approximately half the players, I was invited to the cast party at one of their dorm suites. I'd hung out there many times before, after meetings of the debate society, but for some reason this time it didn't feel right. Instead I stood on the great steps in the swirling nighttime snow, absorbing tonight's reminder of the strangeness of my endeavor, then walked to the General Studies Lounge to read and to be alone with my own kind. When the Ultimate winter league had its season-ending party in the same dorm, I went, but didn't stay long. Celebrating my birthday at the pizza joint after an evening's debate, someone asked, “Doesn't it feel weird to be around nineteen-year-olds?” Somewhat to my surprise, only a little, only sometimes — but yes.

Academically, having made the dean's list belies my ongoing concerns about my study skills and habits. I remain convinced that I can do much better. For instance, with my current courses, I ought to be practicing the grammar and vocabulary of my foreign languages far more regularly. I shouldn't have needed to spend several hours reviewing for my Czech midterm. And while I'm glad that I manage to pull them off when push comes to shove, and that that happens only very occasionally, there's no reason I should be in situations demanding all-nighters. I have enough time, if I manage it properly, to sleep like a normal human being every night.

Roundabout as it may seem, all of the above indicates that I am where I should be: I'm being challenged in useful ways while doing well enough to get by. It's time to ponder how best to keep the challenges coming.