Through the Looking Glass: Disappearing
By Jamie Mercado, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, April 27, 2012
Editor’s Note: Through the Looking Glass is The Mirror’s newest feature. We welcome submissions from all members of the community — both past and present — who wish to write about defining experiences, moments or relationships during their time at Dartmouth. Please submit articles of 800-1,000 words to email@example.com.
Once upon a time, there was a website. On this website, you can usually find an ever-changing list of what fraternities are supposedly better than others or the countless reasons why the new meal plan is so much worse than the old one. Usually, you will find the generic mind vomit of a bunch of overstressed, deliriously tired college kids who don’t have anyone to whom they can verbalize all of their ridiculous thoughts. Usually, it’s the kind of thing you can read and laugh about but never take too seriously.
Sometimes, though, you will find names. A website is not real life, but when a person’s name is there, what’s happening on the website becomes very real. Once, someone wrote my name on the website.
Nothing about me, just my first and last name, with a question mark. I saw it and felt my stomach disappear. I’m a person. Unfortunately, this anonymous person who’d written my name had turned me into a question waiting to be answered.
Being a question on an anonymous website is remarkably like one of those dreams where you’re naked in front of a large crowd of people. It’s not actually happening in real life, but for some reason, it still feels real. You live in terror, waiting, frantically hoping that someone will wake you up or tell you it’s not really happening. There is nothing to reach out and hide behind. You cannot run.
You cannot do anything, really, except stay and watch the judgment begin.
At the very least, I was hoping maybe I would go unnoticed. However, much like the naked person in front of the crowd, this is a far-fetched and entirely unrealistic wish. When people notice, they pounce.
Coming to Dartmouth, I had one goal, and that was to do what I loved. In high school, I made the mistake of doing things because nobody else would do them, or doing things because my friends told me they were cool. I did a lot of things, but I didn’t really like them. I believed college was a place where I could do the things I loved, and because doing what I loved made me happy, I would be happy.
My thought process stopped abruptly when I read the next response to my name: “She needs to disappear.”
I wanted to disappear right then. I thought I’d done a pretty good job making friends and finding things I loved to do in college, but evidently I was dead wrong. I should disappear. I didn’t deserve to be liked. I might as well be an empty shell curled up in the fetal position. I became one for a few minutes, but then I had to go to the bathroom, which forced me to be a person again. I stumbled out into the hallway, still absorbing the fact that someone desired my disappearance. A few of my friends were in the hallway. They said “hi” to me. They were nice to me. I was confused. Weren’t people not supposed to be nice to me? I didn’t deserve that. People aren’t nice to people who are supposed to disappear.
I felt stupid, like I’d just woken up from the naked dream all shaky and flustered. It was just a website. I shouldn’t be crying. It wasn’t real. I cried anyway.
I got in my car and started driving. I almost didn’t notice the song playing in the background. All will be well. Would it? Really, Gabe Dixon Band? I bet nobody thinks you should disappear. But the lyrics persisted. All will be well. You can ask me how, but only time will tell.
So I kept driving. I ended up at Panera Bread. I bought a sandwich, but in my distress, I forgot to tell them to take off the tomatoes. I’m allergic to tomatoes. It didn’t really matter though — people shouldn’t be making perfect sandwiches for people who are supposed to disappear.
I had to go back to campus eventually. Running away from your problems doesn’t make them disappear — it just makes you disappear. I didn’t want to disappear. Maybe somebody else wanted that, but I wasn’t going to disappear. I had things I loved to do and friends who cared about me. I was going to be happy, damn it.
This all stayed festering inside my thoughts and actions until I found myself surrounded by people I loved who cared about me enough to ask. I hadn’t cried in front of people in a long time. When I spilled my nakedly insulted self out for them to see, I was crying so hard that most of what I was saying couldn’t possibly have sounded like words.
They still understood, and they respected me and supported me. They held on to me, affirming that I would not disappear, and I cannot thank them enough.
When I came to Dartmouth, I wanted to do things I love. It never occurred to me that through doing that, I’d find people that I would love, people who would love me. Those people are incredibly important, and it took becoming a question for me to realize this.
Keep those people in your life. Without them, you might just disappear.
Jamie Mercado ’15 is a member of The Dartmouth Graphics Staff who particularly enjoys the Internet due to its plethora of cat-related humor. In her free time, she is usually playing ice hockey, or standing in a circle pretending to be an instrument with the Dartmouth Rockapellas.