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I have been writing for as long as I can remember--even before ink hit the page I have been orchestrating stories in my head, turning myself into anything I could imagine. I recently graduated with my Bachelor's degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. Some of my favorite things are tea parties, poetry, puppies, pop punk and alliteration.
It is a Tuesday, September 12th, 2017, around 10:00pm. I am sitting in a near-empty Frostbites with my dad and his co-worker, Tom. Tom is sitting at a different table, so my father and I can have time together, he says. We are eating frozen sorbets, and I am showing him the many (many) defects of my BlackBerry Torch. Yes, you read that correctly—it is 2017 and I have, for some reason, a BlackBerry Torch. While the height of technology when they appeared in 2010, BlackBerry Torches are now edging on artifact status. Having a BlackBerry is unique to most, and pathetic to some. Nevertheless, I have one. Or at least, I do for now. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss my approaching upgrade. I am getting a Samsung Galaxy of some sort, but the name is forgettable, like the phone itself. For me, the trade is bittersweet. I got the BlackBerry on New Year's Day 2016, after my old phone malfunctioned and died. The BlackBerry was supposed to be my placeholder until we got our upgrades in March. I accepted the BlackBerry with chagrin, with its slide-up keyboard and clock that insisted it was 2056. But March became May, and May became August, and a year later, I am still saddled with the BlackBerry. It is less of a pain at this point and more just an extension of my personality—I am The Girl With The BlackBerry. At this point, the upgrade is less for stylistic reasons and more out of necessity—like an old dog, I am worried about my BlackBerry's health, and I am uncertain it will go on for much longer. “The messages are out of order now,” I say, scrolling through my inbox. “I have two pictures saved, and it tells me I'm out of space. Also, this button is clearly missing,” I say, showing him where the “back arrow” and “end call” buttons should be. The list goes on. Tom joins us at our table, prompted by my father. As we further dissect the BlackBerry's ailments, Tom makes a comment: “That's embarrassing.” Although this jeer is pointed at my father for making me use this monstrosity for as long as he has, the comment slaps me. Embarrassing? Although we were literally JUST talking about what was wrong with it, I am offended that someone would make such harsh comments. I am about to burst into tears. I jump to its defense. “I know it's embarrassing, but I love this phone,” I say. “It's worked for so long, and only recently started malfunctioning. Plus, it's different,” I add, which is what it all boils down to. “No one else has a phone like this.” It is in this moment that my alliance fully manifests. Come to think of it, I have never loved the BlackBerry exactly, but I have a dependence on it. It means something to me. In a world full of iPhones and a smattering of Samsungs, my BlackBerry is an oddity. It is not an everyday occurrence, like a sand dollar. It is inconvenient for almost everyone—it sends group chats to me in seven different threads, and when I reply, it puts MY message in a separate thread to everyone else. It can take good pictures, but only if the lighting is absolutely perfect. It has no front-facing camera, so selfies are out. It can download no apps created past 2011, so the only ones installed are Twitter and an expired Facebook app, neither of which I use often. But like the sand dollar, it is rare—that is where the value lies. In a world of individuals striving to be different, to be unique, the BlackBerry does that. It keeps me grounded and doesn't allow me to look down on other people, because people have done the same to me because of it. It prevents me from being distracted, due to the apps (or lack thereof) it holds. I find myself more present and more observant; more aware and more involved in what's happening around me. In all my insecurities of being wanted and noticed and loved, my BlackBerry is what screams, “here I am! This is exactly who I am” when I am too afraid to fully be myself. When I am scared to be loud, quirky, goofy, my BlackBerry is that. Owning the BlackBerry has, in a cheesy way, helped me grow into who I am now. It has kept me grounded and humble, allowed me to be intentional. It has allowed me to express myself how I always wanted but never knew—as different, quirky, and unique. Tom doesn't know any of this. Tom hasn't had a BlackBerry for a year and nine months. It's not his fault that he doesn't know any of this, and given the circumstances, Tom can only assume that I am hindered by the outdated technology. I back down from my small fight, aware that I am the only one who knows I won. Tom says something, but I am not listening. I am looking at my BlackBerry. While it has not been convenient for anyone; while it has deleted my messages every time it restarts (which is often, due to its poor battery life), I know I will miss the BlackBerry, but I also know what I will take from it with me: the appreciation I have for being different, the awareness it provides me, but more than anything, the greater sense of self it gave me, allowing me to be who I am with no apologies.
If you take Highway 24 from Colorado Springs and go northeast, you will eventually run into Limon. And if you take I-70 from Limon and continue to go east, you will get to Seibert. And if you get off at the exit and drive past the wheat elevators and take the first left turn at Country Road X, you will eventually run into Dykstra Ranch. Here is where I spent at least a week every summer of my childhood, at my grandparents' ranch. Here is where my brother and I would wander for hours with their dog, Patch, trailing behind us. Here is where we would climb over the fences into the stables, creating obstacle courses in our minds, pretending we were in different countries and different times. Here is where we would help my Nana harvest her vegetables—fresh, giant cucumbers and tomatoes and squash, collecting dill and planting apricot pits with no intention of them actually sprouting, but coming back next summer to see they'd sprouted anyway. Here is where we would hold newborn kittens in abandoned tractors, so young their eyes had just opened. Here is where we would ride in the combine with my grandfather during harvest. Here is where we would go on four-wheeler rides through the pastures, finding old Native American arrowheads and shards of broken pottery. Here is the place where magic lived. I don't mean magic in the conventional sense; there were no fairies or elves, there were certainly no witches or warlocks, but here is where the carefree essence of childhood and the innocence of youth converged as one. Between evening cookouts in their backyard fire pit and mundane chores of hanging clothes on the line, I was building kingdoms in my head. When I helped Nana chop carrots or celery, I was helping my pioneer mother can food for the predicted heavy winter; I was preparing a medieval feast of roast goose for Michaelmas. When I woke up in the morning in the green bedroom with the tiny window shutters, I was Briar Rose, in her house with the fairies. In the room with the slanted roof, I was Snow White sleeping in the dwarfs' attic. I was a princess hiding from danger; I was a teenage girl who worked as a cattle hand in the summer; I was a girl raised by her grandparents on a quest to find her mother. I was both servant girl and princess, and I could be both with no conflict. Many summer days, as I got older, I took this place for granted. I hid inside and watched the same Disney channel shows I watched at home. I sat inside and listened to my iPod and sketched. The stress of reality and the crushing weight of time pushed me forward: there were boys to cry over, TV to watch, and the appearance of being “cool” to worry about. I could no longer afford to walk up and down the dirt road, talking to myself. I wasn't a little kid anymore, I didn't need to pretend to be a princess or a servant girl or a pioneer anymore. Those things were dumb. So I would stay inside. But in my memories now, I am outside; it has just rained and the wheat has just been planted, and it's emerald green, so I am pretending I am a sheep-herder in Ireland. Or sometimes, it is late afternoon, and the sun is starting to go down, and I am walking through the dust of the dirt road around the back of the garage to find the tree house my grandpa built us and in my head, I am a peasant girl in the middle ages. Or it is midday, the sun is beating down outside and my Nana warns us when we go outside since snakes will be out and I am hanging clothes on the line to dry and I am pretending I am a pioneer on the frontier. And in those moments, I am finding the magic again.