When I think of vulnerability, I think of “the ball being in someone else’s court”. That doesn’t make too much sense, but that’s how I can best describe it for myself. Allow me to make a better attempt: For me, feeling vulnerable is when I feel like I am not in control. For the dictionary, feeling vulnerable is when someone or something is exposed to harm. Now if we merge those two definitions together, the best way I can describe vulnerability becomes the fear I can’t control whether I am harmed or not. I think it is best to note that I take this definition to mean that there is no defense in a vulnerable situation and that whatever person, place, or thing is vulnerable is unable to protect itself. Since this may sound a little abstract, I’ll offer a silly example. Recall that time when you really had a crush on a girl (or guy) and repeatedly erased a text message that you weren’t sure if you wanted to send to expose your feelings. Now, recall that time right after you gained a false moment of confidence, pushed “send”, and weren’t able to cancel the message. Well, this is what I mean by the ball being in the other court. You put everything out in the open, and it’s the other person’s chance to make a move that can potentially hurt you. The waiting, the uncertainty, and the loss of control combine to make you feel the most vulnerable that you possibly could. It’s almost embarrassing (for me, at least).
With my understanding of vulnerability laid out, I can say I know how vulnerable I feel thinking about these kinds of memories. These memories remind me of high school, which I think is the most vulnerable point of a person’s life. Every situation whether it be an exam, college applications, making new friends, social or sporting events, all leave you exposed and available to harm. You’re not independent, you’re actually significantly dependent on the teachers and friends that you make for their guidance. This vulnerability is necessary to shape you as a human being with a unique personality and consciousness. I can literally feel the vulnerability again when I think back on specific moments of high school. These memories make me feel vulnerable again, and that’s what I have dubbed “nostalgic vulnerability”.
All this thinking about vulnerable high school students (Am I allowed to say that as an “adult”?) got me thinking of how vulnerable a high school building is physically. Isn’t the high school itself exposed to harm that is out of its’ control? Is it a victim of graffiti, wear, age, and vandalism too? Does its smell, texture, shape, or color reflect its vulnerability? I pass my high school everyday and I can tell you that is an absolutely vulnerable building at the mercy of the hundreds of children that enter and exit it everyday. The narrative that I hope to tell is the story of my high school, physically. Which in itself opens nostalgic vulnerability to anyone who attended the school. It looks nothing the same as it did in the 1970’s and earlier. It doesn’t even look the same as it did to me in 2005.
There you have it. The story of a high school; a vulnerable building. Sounds like a sad one to me.