I thought I’d be the only one for years. Vancouver was so far from rural New Hampshire, who else from home would end up at the same boarding school as me? At the end of the summer, I joined a beginning-of-school banquet to welcome new students into my prep school community. Parents and their perfectly contrived children dressed in soft-colored polos. They sported their best small-talk smiles by a lakeside barbeque. I spotted you because you stuck out just like I used to. Nowhere near a mirror, I saw myself so clearly. We do our best to imitate the small-talk around us. We are so much more similar than I’d feared.
To see someone who doesn’t belong
I know they don’t because neither do I
Compare our black hair, our short stance, our deep-set eyes
It’s how I imagine a telescope feels when it finally spots a planet
The image is so clear in front of me but one step backwards leaves light years of distance
It’s something recognizable to ground me
It instills a smallness much different from that familiar othering I’ve befriended
I want to tell you everything that’s to come
How you may as well toss your compass into the Sea of Polo and Prep
How every step over cobblestone will feel like walking with mismatched shoes
Take your time to build your shelter in the storm
Leave the roof open, the stars shine brighter where your thoughts are clear
Lend some time and soon you’ll see
I attend a small prep boarding school in New England, far from where I grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Four years ago, I remember experiencing a great culture shock to the whiteness and preppiness around me. It was difficult to navigate and realize, in reflection during my senior year, that I lost some of myself in that navigation to conformity. For the first time, a new freshman arrived who was also Asian, queer, from Vancouver, and very obviously struggling with the differences between wealthy prep school culture and the diverse, lively culture of Vancouver. Meeting this new person prompted me to feel emotional about the connection to home I lost by attending boarding school. I wrote this poem as a theoretical letter to her. It is advice for her next years at the school I am now preparing to graduate from.
Editors: Zoe L., Anoushka K.