Technology can be a great avenue to connect with the people in our lives. We can send them a thought in a text, a quick picture of our dinner on Snapchat, we can see a filtered photo of an adventure on Instagram. People can be miles away and still be a part of your world. Someone can be with you in your day-to-day life, your moment-to-moment experiences down to the minute depending on their response time. Because of this, our relationships with people and with places change.
I never felt the presence of technology’s power so much as when I moved away from home to a new city where I didn’t know anyone. I found myself in an environment where I needed to learn the winding, complicated streets of Boston. In any other city you can make three lefts and end up where you started, but not in Boston. I found myself being challenged in a graduate program filled with intelligent, competitive, and passionate people. I found myself missing my family.
But weekend before I left home, I met a boy. It was the first time in a while that I found myself in an easy conversation, found myself interested—fundamentally interested from my core. He was tall and athletic, he was funny and charismatic. He felt like calm, like comfort, like home. But I only got one night with this boy. When I left home for my new chapter, we turned to technology to keep in touch. And soon enough I found myself connecting to this person in a way I wasn’t with anyone in my new surroundings.
I believe that everyone enters our lives for a reason. Even if it is for a fleeting moment, even if it is just for a heartbeat, there’s significance to each beat. I believe a moment with someone can hugely impact our thoughts and our trajectory. This boy came into my life just for a moment and lingered a little longer than usual because of technology. In many ways I’m thankful, but mostly I know it was the wrong way to foster a relationship.
This was the first time I lost sight of myself––of reality—because of a boy.
Rather than taking the time to adjust to my new surroundings on my own, I sought comfort in a stranger who was not physically present. It was like I was having an out of body experience, I was lifting myself from my environment to try to connect with someone miles away. Now that I’ve finally returned I can be grateful for him, but also sad about how false the situation became.
This boy, this stranger became a comfort to me in my day-to-day life and yet he wasn’t even present for it. He wasn’t a reality though I forced him to be. Adjusting to a new place and leaning on a stranger during that time does not add up to stability, security, or an easy mind. Instead I found that I was losing confidence, losing the ability to reassure myself first, as I had been used to doing in the past.
I invested so much in him. Yet he solely existed behind my phone screen.
I was so lost in the world technology had created for us that I didn’t create my own associations with my surroundings. I pass by train stops along my commute and think of conversations we once had: The first time you told me how happy I make you. I sit in my local coffee shop and reminisce about the early days where I felt a fire growing in my belly when your name flashed bright on what had become my constant companion, and a big goofy smile would be directed at my phone screen—a smile you never saw.
I see someone wearing Toms and think of our first inside joke. I walk my tree-lined streets, now barren with winter’s chill, and think about that time I wrote to you about my love for the changing seasons—Summer to Fall, the leaves igniting with red, yellow, and orange—set on fire just like my soul when I think of you.
But the whirlwind of a budding romance only lasts so long when it consists of tapping thumbs rather than kisses and cuddles and hand holding. Looking back it makes me sad that we didn’t get to know a more substantial version of each other. That we were subjected to unrealistic expectations because who can really be satisfied by a cell phone?
Now I set my phone aside, I leave it in my pocket during my commute as I embrace the world around me. I’ve realized that I forgot to make my own memories in my new home. Slowly I know that I will stop associating these places with the boy trapped in my phone. Brandon Hall simply becomes the stop before my stop as I return home from work.
When I think of you I’ll think of the fleeting happy moments where you filled me with hope. I’ll think of the fun bantering conversations and the open discourse. I’ll think about how you helped me adjust to a new life. And when I think of you, I’ll hope that you are thinking of me. I hope that I’ve had some impact in your life, that those fleeting moments meant something to you. I’ll always be hoping you are good and that you know I’m still here on the other side of the phone if you need me.