I don’t want to brag, but I’m still alive. 

Meeting new people always seems difficult and staying with old friends fits perfectly into my introverted and lazy persona. Same faces, same jokes, same Evan. But I’m here now. Where no one knows me, and except for some acknowledgement of my sister (Molly Breckman, Semester 68), I’m a blank slate.

For the first few days, I took notes from the plants and animals we were learning about and tried to adapt. I went into every social interaction with one rule in mind: Don’t make anyone cry. I thought that being 100% myself from the getgo would be very disturbing, and I would only like to be somewhat disturbing (at most). So I decided that I would be 80% myself. 80% Evan was doing fine. He was fitting in and no one was crying. I could live with 80% Evan. But when the day was done, and I was laying in my bed, staring at the ceiling as my other cabin mates were getting to know each other, I truly missed that other 20% percent. 

There’s a communal notebook in the dining hall where you can write fun messages and sign up for activities. Bored one day, I started writing Bear Updates. A series of updates about me and a bear.

The following was the first bear update I wrote:

  • Update: No bears yet.
  • Update: Thought I saw a bear, but it was just a rock.
  • Update: Bear behind the rock!
  • Update: The bear is chill.
  • Update: Went bowling with the bear. The bear was like “Let’s play with bumpers” and I was like “No, dude, be cool.”
  • Update: “I beat the bear. The bear was like “That’s not fair. I can’t fit my paw inside the bowling ball holes.” and I was like “Don’t blame the paws. You chose bowling.”

Over the next few days I would write bear update after bear update. Not many people would read it. But every once in a while, someone passing by would stop and ask, “Did you write those bear updates?” and I would respond “Yes!” and they would say “They were kind of funny, I guess.” and that would make my day.

A week into the semester, with some free time before everyone went back to their cabins for sleep, I was hanging out at the Flintstones (communal living space) with people I had never really talked to before. We were chatting about setting up a Chewonki humor magazine and I told the story of how my previous humor magazine blew up in my face. For some unfortunate reason, everyone decided to give me their undivided attention. All of a sudden, for the first time since I arrived, I held the helms of a conversation. I forgot that these people were relative strangers, and just talked, and joked, and joked. I remember making someone laugh so hard they cried. I guess I broke my rule.

By the end of that night, and throughout the following days I not only found that missing 20%, but I picked up an extra 10% along the way. I am now 110% myself. The mathematicians amongst you would probably say that it’s impossible for me to be 110% myself. To which I say you should probably read something more factual, like a math book or a calculator.

But maybe that math jerk (remember him?) was right. Maybe I can’t be 110% myself. Maybe, my entire life, what I thought was 100% myself was just 90% myself, and I was waiting to come here to collect my missing 10%.

-Evan Breckman, Newark Academy, Madison, NJ

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