I Need a New Laptop But I Don’t Want to Admit It
Writing is harder than ever for me right now. And that’s not due to stress, obligations, busy-ness, or a even pandemic — it’s due to the state of my computer. Right now, about every fifth time I hit the “t” button on my keyboard, it comes off and I have to put the cover back on. The “o” button is getting very loose as well, and I just texted about five friends asking if they have any Krazy-glue or Gorilla-glue for me to keep my keys in place.
Needless to say, it makes writing very difficult because sometimes, my “t’s” don’t type. Other times, I type too many “t’s.” The keyboard is just one of many problems for the laptop. There’s a water stain on the lower right corner. I have almost no storage. The battery life doesn’t last as long as it used to. It’s slow. The writing is on the wall: I need a new computer.
But I won’t admit it because I want to use this 2015 Macbook Air until I can’t use it anymore. I got the computer midway through my junior year in college, when I had to replace an old Asus computer that had half the screen cracked. I didn’t have that much money, but my old computer before the Macbook Air was a piece of shit that ran so slowly I couldn’t take it anymore. I bought a refurbished Macbook Air for $430, which was a week’s paycheck at my work-study.
I got it midway through my junior year in college was my next laptop, and it didn’t disappoint. It ran a lot faster. It typed a lot smoother. Its battery life was longer than an hour. Every single thing I did on that Mac, besides gaming, was much better than the old Asus. I did better in classes and felt much less inconvenienced just because I had a semi-functional computer, and didn’t need to break the bank for it.
And I also won’t deny I attach significant sentimental value to my laptop. I am currently in my second year teaching, and my laptop has lasted me through my junior year of college, senior year, first-year teaching, and the COVID-19 pandemic. It has guided me through some of the most impactful and meaningful periods of my life, and I’m not ready to let go.
My junior year of college is when I opened up about childhood trauma and personal family issues to my closest friends. I won’t disclose those issues for the privacy of my family, but it was the catalyst that led to the most transformative choice I made: giving my life to Jesus Christ. That year, I became a Christian, started daily Bible readings, and attended Bible studies. I realized there was a strong missing void in my spiritual life where I lacked purpose and meaning, and the Christians in my life treated others with respect, compassion, and an indescribable sense of kindness in an environment that was often hypercompetitive and cutthroat. I help Galatians 5:14 very close to me that year as a creed on how to treat people in my life:
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)
That decision to turn myself to Christ would save my life, in terms of my faith, but also going through life the next year. I would have, by far, the most difficult year of my life my senior year of college due to personal circumstances. I left my cross country team, where I had my closest friends, and I never felt so betrayed and alone in my life. Only through Christ and the Christian faith community would I be taken in and accepted.
And then I started my first year teaching in Baltimore City, in a very high-need, inner-city school. It was very difficult, but showed me there was a whole world outside the world I felt absolutely trapped and caged in. And there were a whole set of world problems outside my mind and my personal bubble.
I met my girlfriend, who I’ve been dating for a year and six months, as well as a very strong network of friends. Despite the issues myself, my friends, and my students were facing, I had hope. I went through significant challenges as I had to shed a lot of the idealism I had for the teaching profession, but ultimately, it was the start of a new chapter.
That was last year, a year that would also bring the COVID-19 pandemic, which took us out of the physical classroom. My school was closing my first year, and then I went to a new school my second year of teaching. My new school has been a very kind environment and fit for me that is rekindling much of my love for the profession, but 2020 was a very difficult year for the obvious reasons: COVID, political tension, a reckoning with systemic racism, and an election where the loser did not accept election results.
Despite 2020 being a year of insurmountable challenge, it was a better year for me than 2019. I’m one of the lucky ones that can actually say that.
The constants through all four of these years have been Christ, but also this laptop. It has files saved from 2017 to 2021. The desktop has a cover photo of my favorite TV show. It is crowded with Microsoft Word documents and PDFs, both work and personal, before I ever got my work computer.
It’s just a laptop, but it feels like much more than a laptop. In Manchester by the Sea, a teenage kid, Patrick, suffers the death of his father. For the entire first half of the movie, Patrick reacts stoically to the death of his father. He doesn’t cry, and he doesn’t show much emotion. However, in one moment, Patrick opens the freezer and has frozen meat pouring out the freezer. Trying to pack the meat back into the freezer gives Patrick chest pains as the freezer doesn’t close. He starts sobbing and breaking down in front of his uncle, who offers to take him to the hospital. When they’re talking, Patrick says:
“I just don’t like him being in the freezer.”
Patrick’s expression of grief comes at a very strange time. It doesn’t come right after his father dies. It doesn’t come at any of the earlier parts of the movie — it comes when Patrick sees frozen food, which director Kenneth Lonergan describes as a delayed reaction to his father’s death. They need to put Patrick’s father in the freezer unit before they can bury him, and Patrick isn’t ready.
I resonate with Patrick’s reaction now based on my own personal experiences. I spent an hour trying to jam the “t” button back into the laptop so I could move on with my life. I looked for Krazy glue in every drawer. It wasn’t working since the spring part of the key kept falling out. I started to try to jam it more and more aggressively until my girlfriend had to ask me whether something was wrong.
I don’t know why I was so upset when I reacted. Maybe it was accepting a large part of my life, essentially the last four years, was behind me. Maybe it was accepting I am not the same person I was back then. Maybe it was just the massive upheaval and transition, because for all I gained, I lost a lot too, and I didn’t cherish the people in my life that loved me and spent time with me enough. Maybe it was grieving all that’s been lost in the middle of a pandemic.
I would be lying if I said there was one clear-cut reason for me feeling this upset over a laptop key. Sure, the laptop is running slower than it used to, but it’s still usable. But it’s also evident that the end of this laptop in my life a catalyst, a sign of something bigger for me emotionally. Philosopher Alain de Botton differentiates between this feeling of intellectually knowing versus emotionally accepting, and says intellectually oriented people have a tricky time in therapy. Emotional knowledge makes us in touch with who we are, our feelings, so we can tackle our real problems.
“And it is on the basis of this kind of hard-won emotional knowledge, not its more painless intellectual kind, that we may one day, with a fair wind, discover a measure of relief from some of the troubles within,” Alain de Botton says.
Part of what’s made daily life difficult for my computer is the daily battering of the keys. Ever since COVID-19, I spend easily 12 hours or more on the computer. I work on it. I watch Netflix on it. I teach on it, and I go to meetings on it. It’s taken a larger than life presence ever since it came to dominate my life. And I want to keep using it until it falls apart completely, because I don’t want to go through the pain of losing four years of my life.
And part of coming out of the world in my head and entering the real world is recognizing that a laptop is just a laptop. Sure, it’s a catalyst. Sure, it’s a trigger into feeling some type of way about some sort of ending in my life. But it’s an electronic object, something I can get fixed, or at worst something I can replace.
If anything, writing this has shown me that the world doesn’t crash down just because the “t” key doesn’t work well. In fact, I’ve included plenty of “t’s,” so even if a key falls out of the keyboard, even if it takes a couple presses to register, doesn’t mean it’s time to start over and flip a new chapter.
At least not yet.