What I’ve Learned Since I Lost My Phone Three Weeks Ago

I must begin with a confession: I am one of those iPhone users. I am extremely loyal to Apple’s brand across all my devices. Usually I just end up seeming privileged and annoying with my slew of Apple products, but they just happen to suit me better in their function and appearance, even if they rarely suit my budget. It’s just a personal preference, and one that expresses itself through my nigh-surgical attachment to my iPhone especially. O, my beloved iPhone 5, marred by chips and scratches but never cracked; warmly embraced by a mostly broken case featuring two cat astronauts (which was my boyfriend’s first gift to me); and missing. For three weeks now.

After a particularly boring day which required the life-draining, time-wasting use of my phone almost consistently, my battery died and I exasperatedly tucked my phone into my bag. After work, I swung my bag over my shoulder and strolled out to the car, where my boyfriend was waiting. We played some music, stopped at Jamba Juice, and went home. I didn’t even think to glance at my phone on the car ride, because I knew it was dead. When I got home, I found out that it was also not at all where it was supposed to be. Several hours of car searching and room upending later, I was red in the face and sweating, but still phoneless. Visits to no less than three Lost & Found offices on my campus were fruitless, as were repeated calls to the Jamba Juice. Finally, I was forced to alert the online world that I had lost my handheld connection to it.

The next day, I was set to drive down to San Diego with the aforementioned boyfriend to spend the weekend with his family, including a one-day trip to my personal Mecca: Disneyland. My immediate sadness the morning I woke up for the drive stemmed from the knowledge that in addition to losing my phone, my gaming device, my mini-computer, I had also lost my camera. Thus, I had lost the ability to document the road trip, the birthday celebrations for my boyfriend’s younger brother, and the moments at the Happiest Place on Earth—as well as the ability to share them with the world. While I stoppered most of the grief with a $10.99 disposable camera (what the hell, CVS? I thought these were supposed to be cheap!), I knew that wouldn’t really solve the loss I was feeling.

It wasn’t until I stared out across the flat stretches of highway between Santa Cruz and San Diego, in the occasionally quiet moments in our packed car, that I noticed the rectangular hole that had burnt itself into my palm. I kept jumping at phantom vibrations and suddenly digging through my purse for my phone before realizing that there could be nothing there. I subtly (but desperately) tried to search the car from my seat to see if the phone was in some obscure, unexplored corner. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t. When everyone else in the car was checking their phones, I fiddled with my disposable camera and looked out the window. My phone was lost, and so was I.

When we arrived in San Diego, my boyfriend was almost immediately swept back up with his family. Which was awesome, because they all missed each other dearly and it made me happy to see them all so fulfilled by each other’s presence. While I’m on great terms with his family, I kept finding myself sitting quite still and alone despite the flurry of activity around me, unsure how to relate to those around me without my boyfriend, my connection to everyone else I saw that weekend, by my side. Normally I’m all about being a strong independent woman who doesn’t need her boyfriend around always, but in this social situation with people that knew him and him only things were different. These moments of loneliness felt painfully acute without my 4.4” window into the virtual familiarity I’ve cultivated through utterly dedicated use of various social media websites.

As I have gotten older, my phone has become even more important to me as the needle which stitches together the threads I’ve left in my hometown, my study abroad locations, my past and my present. Living a life of constant relocations—from house to house in my childhood after my parents’ divorce, and from city to city in my later teen years to accommodate high school and rising rent costs, and from my home(s) to my college campus, and from my college campus to entirely new countries—has necessitated an obsessive attention to the online maintenance of my many relationships. So while I was certainly stressed about the loss of an expensive material item that bears the brunt of the responsibility of keeping me entertained and organized throughout the day, what really upset me was the sense of isolation I experienced.

My phone has been gone for over three weeks now and due to the hefty security deposit I was forced to pay for my apartment this year, I won’t be able to buy a new one until January, after my next round of financial aid applies. While the suffocating isolation has mostly subsided, I still feel pangs of loss when I try to do anything requiring a phone. My desk is constantly littered with half-completed to-do lists, rudimentarily drawn calendars and schedules, and thousands of doodles, filling the time I previously would have dedicated to a phone. Fall quarter of my senior year has largely gone undocumented in photos without my camera, and since CVS was only able to develop 13 of my 28 photos from my weekend in Southern California due to digitalized incompetence, I haven’t found another way to document this fleeting period in my life. But being accidentally off the grid reminds me daily to focus more on enjoying these moments, rather than obsessively archiving them. And hey, without constant typing and texting, maybe my handwriting will even improve.

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