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We never really notice our beginnings as they happen. We only recognize our beginnings in hindsight.

The drink that led to the hangover you weren’t expecting.

The fight you had with a friend over something small that turned into the ending of the friendship altogether.

The kiss that sparked a multi-year relationship.

It’s so rare to be able to pinpoint where it all began. But when I was eleven, my body felt a new feeling. And, with time, I realized what it really was: the start.

I didn’t know her. I couldn’t tell you her name. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t remember. I didn’t talk to her. I doubt we ever had a conversation. I was a lowly 6th grader. A nothing, a ghost of a person.

She was an 8th grader and first-chair violinist in the school orchestra. She had short brown hair and wore glasses.

She was talented, artistic, everything I still swoon over to this day.

I probably went almost an entire school year not thinking much of my observation of her. I had marveled at how good she was at the violin. I, on the other hand, was hidden somewhere in the second violin section. Maybe I chalked my feelings up to some flavor of envy. Maybe I had convinced myself:

“I just want to be her.”

But one day, walking down the noisy, overly crowded hallway in between classes, I saw her. And in that moment, my heart raced. Not just raced. It raged. It rattled behind my ribcage like a prisoner.

My body felt something right then that would take me years and years for my brain to understand. My body knew what that strange alchemy of fear and thrill really was: a crush.


Middle school, as an epoch, seems universally despised.

You don’t have to wait for hindsight to teach you this lesson; it was clear as it was happening. Middle school was the actual worst. The thing that hindsight does tell me, though, is that the heart racing thing wasn’t unique to me. The feeling was so foreign, I assumed I was alone in it. After all, my heart didn’t do that for boys.

My body had already processed so many other signals that I wasn’t like the other kids. I already felt… different: half Chinese, half white. I was neither, and I was both. Everyone else had had boyfriends and girlfriends since kindergarten, which seemed so strange, and even in retrospect still does. Did I need to feel even more like an alien than I already did?

So, my brain told my body: no more. Shut it down. We’re different enough. Heart, sit tight.

Maybe if my brain hadn’t done that, or had told my body that everyone had the heart racing feelings, I might have not felt so different. It might have been the one thing that did make me like everyone else. I guess we’ll never know.

It’s crazy how strongly that memory is still in me. Not just in my brain though. In my bones. It was the beginning. The drumbeat inside of me was my body telling my brain to pay attention. Look over here! Feel this! Your sense of self, your identity, your relationship with the world depends on it!

I don’t think I’ve ever felt that level of heightened heart racing since then. It was the first time my body felt that rush of emotions, and I feel lucky to know it. I can’t pinpoint any other first where my body reacted and I was aware of it in such an acute way.

These days, I try to savor the moments my body tells me something new, even when it hurts. I try to dissect the sensations, decipher them like a map to somewhere unknown. Some future version of myself. Look over here! Feel this! Treasure awaits.

Meredith Chin

Meredith Chin is a writer, director, and producer living in Los Angeles, CA.

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