Dispatches at The Prospect are brief reflections from our writers that focus on their experiences during the summer break. This piece is part of the Dispatch summer 2022 series.
Content Warning: The following piece contains mentions of death.
During the summer of 2022, for all intents and purposes, I am a student of the University of Southern California (USC).
When I moved to LA for the summer thanks to Princeton University’s John C. Bogle ’51 fellowship, I sublet an apartment for USC students. It was terrifying. Not only did I have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t, but I’d also never been on a flight alone, didn’t know how to cook anything beyond instant ramen, and was on the opposite coast from my family in New York, where I grew up. But once I settled in, learning the beauty of DoorDash, I started my stay in LA doing the only logical thing you can do when you’re in a beautiful new place with palm trees and perfect weather: stay inside all day and play Wizard101.
To be fair, I did head out with my subletter, a USC student and one of four people I knew in the entire state, to the Grove, an iconic shopping mall in the heart of LA. Then I crossed off some items on my LA bucket list by dining at In-N-Out (which is undeniably inferior to Shake Shack), kayaking at Newport Beach with new friends, being jealous of the homeowners at Santa Monica Beach, dining in Koreatown and Little Tokyo, and strolling around Manhattan Lite — also known as Downtown LA. This seems like a long list, but for a while, a solid seven out of 24 hours of my day were spent on Wizard101.
Looking back, it’s laughable how badly that game messed up my plans. It was all I wanted to do as an elementary schooler, but my family couldn’t afford to pay for a membership (I often speculate that this is the beginning of my villain origin story.) A few weeks ago, though, I remembered that I’m an adult with my own bank account — a dangerous fact to remember because since then, I’ve sunk dozens of dollars and hours on the game.
Over time, however, my attention moved onto other things, like writing tens of pages of Star Wars fanfiction after the release of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and meeting psychedelic rock musicians at parties. The latter was the reason I chose to come to LA specifically: as a musician myself, I always find it easier to write songs with others. Still, I was struggling to find the motivation to actually make music, which isn’t the best thing to happen to someone who wants to make music for a living.
And then something happened that really lit a fire under my seat: One of my biggest Minecraft YouTuber idols and the source of half my personality, Technoblade, passed away after a long fight against Stage IV cancer. He was only 23. If motivation comes in sparks, then this was a hundred-million-volt lightning bolt thrown at me by Zeus.
It’s confusing to grieve someone you don’t know personally. At first I felt stupid because I barely knew his real name (he only revealed it in his final goodbye video) and yet here I was, spending hours crying over a funny Internet man who played a block game for fun.
But his death has made me think, selfishly, about how quickly things can change. How the unthinkable can become reality in a matter of seconds. It made me think about all the things I have yet to do in life, and many of them involve publishing music I spent the past few weeks not working on. So, I started working on it, and I made a semi-demo version of one song I’m very proud of. I now spend upwards of five hours a day working on music on top of my fellowship job, and when I’m not working on music, I’m either watching Technoblade videos or writing.
This summer was filled with things I was uncomfortable doing, some of which I went into willingly and some I didn’t, but, regardless, I don’t regret taking the 2789-mile leap from home to the unknown.
Claire Shin is an Assistant Editor for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @claireshin86.