It felt like everything I had been working up to this point had collapsed in on itself in a fiery ball of disarray. Months earlier, I had been allowed a gift from my parents for my 8th-grade valedictorian. This reward had initially caught me by surprise, considering my parents held economical and self-effacing values as long as I had been alive. However, in their words, “long term achievements of consistency and hard work call for celebration and reward.” We had already gone out for dinner the night of 8th-grade promotion, peculiar compared to the daily, home-cooked, Mediterranean cuisine. For once in my life, feelings of achievement and reward flooded the brain. All the while, I pondered what my reward should be. My parents set the limitation of 400 dollars, perhaps the most money I have been given to spend at one time in my life. After a short moment of consideration, I was positive that I wanted to fulfill my long-time middle school dream of building my own computer.
Years previous, I helped my oldest brother, Ennis, build his computer. This memorable experience brought my brother and me closer in contrast to the earlier years of separate isolation. He advised against making decisions on my computer parts so quick and haphazardly and suggested I take at least four months to learn everything, to which I completely disregarded. I thought he was trying to delay my long sought after dream, and I frankly thought better of myself than he did. After all, my friends had embarked on their computer-building journeys in previous years, constructing instruments of technological prowess. Their computers could handle any game on the market, render any creative project, and multitask like there’s no tomorrow. Up until this point, I was trapped with an abysmal all-in-one Hewlett-Packard computer that could hardly handle music and word processing programs at the same time. I suffered when trying to keep open more than two programs at a time. I was missing out on the opportunity to get closer to my friends over virtual interaction, such as video games and voice calls. This gap in communication left me out of inside jokes and closeness within my friend group, leaving me alienated and alone. It was soul-crushing that I finally made my first ever friends, but couldn’t get closer and feel the sense of brotherhood that they all felt amongst each other due to a lack of technology. The opportunity my parents presented me with left me happy, and I immediately jumped into picking out computer parts that fit my budget. Initially, I went way over budget, thinking that the highest end parts were fundamental to perform as well as my colleagues. My Filipino friend, Ahre, adept at this process, told me that this was not necessary, guiding me in picking parts that could fit my budget while delivering the performance I longed for. Even in this seemingly monotonous picking and pairing of computer parts, for the first time, I felt closer to Ahre. Euphoria and excitement swept my body as a result of looking at a list of numbers and strange names with a friend. Every day, I would learn more and more about computer parts, what all the numbers meant, part names and generations, effective component pairings. I felt like I had a passion outside of academics for the first time.
Finally, the day had come. I brought my list of parts, including the price, and in return, my father gave me his credit card to begin ordering my ticket to the circle of socialization. I excitedly ordered off tech websites and patiently waited for the next seven days to receive my parts. After I had waited separate times for all the individual components to come in, I stacked them in an array of beauty on the table I planned to build them. I began to unpackage and sort my parts, with Ennis in another room, leaving me to handle it myself as I said I could. I began to mount the motherboard into the computer case, realizing after a moment that it was far too small. I started to panic, sweating bullet and repeatedly attempting to make the motherboard fit, to no avail. My brother walked by, reluctantly accepting my request for assistance. He glanced at the circuit board for a quick second, angrily clarifying, “That’s a mini-board for smaller computers, that won’t work in there.” He then proceeded to rant to me on how he warned me not to rush the process and waste money, yet I still did. In a fit of anxiety, I ran into the downstairs bathroom and locked myself in the darkness, sobbing and hyperventilating intensely.
After ten minutes, I felt a soft nock accompanied by a voice of the same manner. The sound of Ennis, apologizing to me for his anger and saying that maybe we could still make it work out. I opened the door, and he embraced me. We reapproached the workbench, and he began to strategically Sauter screw platforms into the case. After he finished this precision work, he carefully fit my motherboard over the crew mounts. Our faces grew in a smile as we saw holes and mounts align perfectly. We screwed the circuit board in, and he helped me assemble the rest of my parts within the computer. I was ingesting two hours of passionate learning and application, and then it was finally done.
I neurotically pressed the power button, expecting the whir of fans and flow of electricity, but the computer lay dormant. I had bouts of deja vu from the motherboard incident and began to pace. My brother then suggested flipping the power supply switch on the back the other way. It couldn’t be such an elementary problem, but I did it anyway. To my surprise, the computer came to life. I immediately held my brother in a tight hug thanking him for his wisdom. We ordered take-out in celebration of our painstaking work and set up the computer to boot. Weeks and weeks following, I played and chatted with friends, enjoying my official integration and belonging within a friend group. Computer building grew to be my primary passion, my skills becoming better and better each time I did it. It is still my primary hobby today, and I sometimes manage to make money off of it by building computers for other people. I will truly never forget the pivotal success that was my first computer.