A month ago I got an Instagram DM from an old friend. Admit I was nervous when I saw this iconic red notification popping up in the corner of my homepage. After all, the last time I spoke to them was in 2019, when we were both still unaware of the upcoming school year. Really, it had been a while. To me, they were like a still element in my mind – both a wormhole that brought me back before I even worried about college, and an hourglass so delicate that if I had to reconnect, the sands they were carrying would certainly fall and shatter the illusion of not growing up. With concern, I opened the chat and found their text staring at me.
“Hello … um … can I literally order a part …”
The harsh white light in its background betrayed the vertigo of its tone, evoking the feeling that I was awaiting judgment in a conventional Hollywood waiting room. Maybe I was waiting, not a judgment, but a momentum that would finally pull me out of the stagnant water that permeated my last week before college.
And yet, even after typing in my response and letting it marinate in my chat box, I couldn’t bring myself to click send. After all, was this illusion really worth shattering? Was it really worth accepting that the end of the summer that once seemed so far away was now here, and that in a week I would be walking north to Bowdoin? I stopped, feeling the weight of this future before me. A few moments passed and I hit “Send”; I knew the answer.
“YES YOU CAN”
During a series of DMs we spoke and I felt that sweet warmth settle in me that you only get when you reconnect with someone whose life path has long been derived from. from yours. At first it was awkward, a litany of expected jokes.
“How are you?”
“I was good lol, moving to Maine next week crazy af…”
“I felt, the first week is nerve-racking…”
Yet soon we fell into a familiar rhythm, more and more comfortable with the people who were now texting each other – the versions that replaced the people we once knew.
“Yeah, uh, I actually tested positive for COVID LOLOL, I’m out of luck …”
“Yeah IK, I must be loving my forties until I go to Michigan …”
“Why did you say that ??? I’m scared now …”
“If I tested positive on moving day, what would I do …”
It was wonderful how easily we moved from one subject to another. We talked about their interest in fate, angel numbers, romance, and how their current art project deals with all three. They admitted that they wanted to commission me because they liked my art style and wanted to see my take on their project. Yet despite their affection, I felt they were hiding something, their joy unable to perfectly mask the storm below.
“So what inspired you to pursue this in the first place?” “
For a moment all I saw were the three dots at their end, appearing and then vanishing, like waves in the DM cybersphere. But the waves ceased, and I was afraid I had lost them, my too personal question, and I had overstepped it. It really seemed to me then that I was in this divine waiting room. Suddenly, however, the dots reappeared and the conversation changed.
They spoke of the fallout from their attempt at summer romance and the mixed feelings of anger, sadness and confusion after being vulnerable with someone, without the other fully meeting their needs. It was difficult because I could understand, understand this weird, intoxicating mixture of both being in love with someone and being disappointed that they could never be who you thought they were to them. But most of all, I resonated with the lesson from their story about how difficult vulnerability is – how scary it is to intentionally put yourself in a position beyond the comfort you’re used to. Granted, this is something everyone experiences, and I knew I had to capture it, not just for them, but for myself.
Entitled “Ready For Combat,” the above piece is inspired by the lesson I learned that day. With other people it is so easy to be the one in pain and the one in pain, both the archer and the prey, as Taylor Swift sings in one of my friend’s favorite songs, “The Archer “. Vulnerability is definitely something that can distract not only from the thought of love, but from any aspect of life. Yet it seems that when one is vulnerable, they grow and open up to a range of previously hidden experiences and emotions, new colors and shapes springing from every fabric of life.
Although it’s been a while since the last week of August, this conversation has marked me, especially during my three weeks at Bowdoin. I’ve met so many people, I’ve been through so much, and I have a feeling of freedom that I never felt in my home. But strangely, I still feel this creeping pain that I’ve talked too much, don’t belong, and have to leave because people can see me for who I am, a perception that I can’t fully control.
As consuming as it may be, I know that when that feeling blossoms all I need is to remind myself of the lesson from the play above. I have to be vulnerable, ready to expose myself no matter what the outcome, no matter if I am the hunted prey. After all, how else can I grow up? In Bowdoin, I have to be ready for a fight, ready to just draw the bow, shoot and go wherever the arrow lands.