The connection was bad, and it wasn't just the technology.
Phone glued to my ear and eyes glued to my laptop, I struggled to make out the fuzzy facebook group call and the equally fuzzy skype video.
Nothing was working that night.
The normally-obedient ethernet cable had decided to rebel. Even better, its protests aligned perfectly with the anticipated catch-up session with my home university friends.
The skype call took nearly half an hour to connect, and once it finally did, it graciously bestowed upon us incoherent sound and blurry video that rivaled even the most impressionist of impressionist paintings.
So on my equally poor data connection, we tried talking through facebook messenger call, complemented by wild gestures through a mute skype video. That failed. When we learned that my voice was transmitting fine through skype but theirs wasn't, a friend resorted to transcribing the conversation on the other end through skype chat while I spoke normally. That failed too.
Eventually, the internet's resistance waned, and we found ourselves with coherent, albeit still sub-par, connection. But while the quality of our skype call improved, the quality of our conversation did not.
Over the months we'd been separated, I had collected tidbits waiting become conversation--observances that reminded me of the crew, questions about new developments, anecdotes that I thought they'd appreciate. I envisioned hearing all about thesis writing, vacations, orientation week, class schedules, the new rhythm. I imagined announcing that I had been to a bar, that I now only use one toothbrush--not two, that life was novel and exciting here but that I often yearned for the resonance and familiarity of Amherst.
Instead, we found ourselves discussing whether or not to reschedule the call for a day with better internet connection, and ultimately deciding it was too much effort. We made light small talk, stale like a baguette that's been left out overnight, and about as deep as a kiddie pool. People came and went. Others busied themselves with the interwebs or work.
Eventually, it was time for dinner over in the US, and time for me to sleep in France. With a casual goodbye, my school family trickled out of the room, leaving me with an empty laptop screen and an unsettled heart.
I struggled to name a concrete reason for the lackluster call, especially after several uplifting catchup sessions with other friends. Maybe it was the internet issues. Maybe it was the size of the group. Maybe it was academic stress. Or maybe we had already drifted.
Some bonds are perhaps woven by circumstance, and frayed by their very creator. But the ephemeral nature of many connections can't dilute the potent impressions they've made. For instance, I've rarely communicated with my grandmother for the past several years, but I nonetheless consider her one of the closest friends I've ever had. I still carry the resonance we shared--resonance that is but warm memories from her long-term stay in the US in my middle school days. She has her own life across the world in China, and I have mine. But somehow, she's always with me--through her infinite compassion, through her patient insight on my frivolous adolescent dreams, through her undepressing realism and heroic humility.
My home university friends and I may now exist in separate spheres. Our connection might be unstable, internet-induced or not. But regardless of what happens, they'll always be with me--their genuine empathy, their eclectic intellectualism, their carefree energy. And even better--I don't need an ethernet cable for any of that.
As a liberal arts student/endurance athlete/violinist/fashion enthusiast, I find beauty in many spheres. Consequently, I have no idea where life will lead me. Here is where I document my journey to creating myself--soul-baring reflections, embarrassing photos, and all. Feel free to join me for the ride.