Everything is vibrant. The grass is green, the sun is setting, the air is warm. It’s golden hour on a summer evening in a quiet suburban neighborhood. I eye a glass of ice that sits on a table in front of me. Children run, laugh and scream as they enjoy their seasonal freedom. A wind chime sings in the breeze, creating a melody that matches the hum of the crickets.
All of this, yet I hear nothing.
I can’t hear the wind chime sing, I can’t hear the children play, I can’t hear the crickets chirp. I can’t hear myself screaming in agony. I can’t move no matter how hard I struggle. I’m forced to fixate on the glass of ice in front of me. I stare, and I stare, and I stare, and finally, the ice shifts, melting in the summer heat, creating the loudest crash, like boulders falling, smashing into the concrete from hundreds of meters above. Swallowed by the scene around me, I am scared, helpless and empty. I am both so painfully present and removed.
This is how I maneuvered through my first two years of college.
I can pinpoint the exact moment when I began to break free from the restraints pinning me down, to be able to laugh, feel free and be present. We were standing on Korbin’s roof, all pretty tipsy, and me, still confused and unsure of what I was doing there. Socializing was exhausting, and I didn’t feel any real connection to the people around me. Small talk proved to be mundane, as it always is. I must have made some self-deprecating joke, as I always do, because Hannah, a stranger at the time, told me I could tell her my secrets and call her if I was sad. I laughed and gave her my thanks, because it wasn’t the first time I have heard this half-hearted offer. We called it a night.
As the outgoing Graphics editor and for comedic relief, I’ve provided a handy graph for a more dynamic viewing experience.
A few days later, mid-panic and hopeless, I sat sobbing in my closet. I felt like I had exhausted the people I would have normally talked to and remained in the dark, breathing fast, trying to stop the anxiety. I remembered Hannah’s offer, and after several minutes debating with myself, managed to convince myself to call her, a stranger, because I felt so helpless and so, so pathetic.
This was the shifting point. Hannah barely said anything over the phone.
“I’m coming over, I’ll be there soon,” she said.
Even though it was late. Even though she barely knew me. It was genuine kindness that stood in front of me in my apartment, shaking me awake and reassuring me that I was okay. I was so startled by its presence, by her presence, that it made a lasting impression.
I don’t think I could have fully immersed myself in the relationships that I’ve made over the past two years if weren’t for you, Hannah. I’ll spare us all the minute details of every emotion I’ve ever felt, even though you probably already know them all. I am more thankful than I am capable of expressing in words.
This might seem like a thank you letter to Hannah, but in reality, this is a love letter to all the people I’ve been able to waste hours with, in and out of the office. To Hannah, to Emaan, to Tanner, to Anji, to Umby, to Will, to Isabelle, to Matt, to Korbin, to Claire, to Ryan, to PaulinaHowardChang (because you’re all one person), to Sam, to Michael (the joke is that you have to figure out which one), to Hanson, to my Design and Graphics babies. Thank you for your existence, I hope I was genuine enough to make a lasting impression.
Finally, last shout out to my dog, my literal dog, Frodo, because if he isn’t mentioned I know someone’s going to say something about it.
Woo was a Design contributor 2014-2015, assistant Design director 2015-2016 and Graphics editor 2016-2017.