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Toshiki Nakashige talks about science, writes, and loves dogs.

10 Year Challenge

The summer after freshman year in college was a summer of transition: moving into my first apartment, declaring a major in chemistry, and switching personal email addresses to one that had my full name. Any monicker with “tgn” was extinguished. Also, that summer I deactivated my Facebook account because it was distracting and intended to reactivate it a few months later. I was practicing a social media cleanse before there was even a term for it. For a reason that I don’t remember, though, I couldn’t reactivate my profile.

I was reminded of this event during the flurry of “10 year challenge” posts that flooded the social media channels that I have since cleansed and restored many times over. Wanting to participate and looking for the perfect 2009 photo, I scrolled through my Facebook albums only to find that the earliest pictures of me on there are from 2010. I eventually created a new Facebook profile after discovering that I couldn’t simply restore my old one. I suppose the latter part of that year was dedicated to rebuilding a network of online friends, and I had never gotten into a habit of uploading photos of myself in any consistent manner. I was at a school where I only really knew one other person before starting there, and I maintained contact with my hometown friends online. Ten years ago, I often felt disconnected from the world.

I’m writing a novel. It’s autobiographical, and many of the feelings in my protagonist’s story are feelings that I felt as an out-of-state student at a big university. Ritualizing the process to write in my daily life sparked a memory from an art class that I took during Freshman Spring.

In collaboration with my new friend Jonathan Gleit, I created a series of photographs entitled Natsume Sōseki in Berkeley for a project for an introductory art course. The assignment was appropriation, and I appropriated the work of David Wojnarowicz called Arthur Rimbaud in New York. My freshman year was a confusing mix of anxiety and also the most carefree fun I’ve had in my life. Looking at these photos now, I’m impressed by how well they evoke the feelings I had back in 2009. I feel silly conducting some introspective art historical analysis, so I’ll let you think about what I’m trying to convey.

The original photographs were stored on my laptop two laptops ago, but I was able to retrieve high resolution versions of them through my online Walgreens account. I must have uploaded them to their website to print for the class critique. As for my 10 year challenge, my triceps got bigger, my jeans got tighter, and I’m back to using an online identifier that doesn’t have my full name. I feel more connected to the world than ever before.

Jonathan Gleit also photographed the Golden Gate Bridge for my novel. Visit my Patreon page to learn more about the novel and how to support me on monthly writing retreats.

Toshiki Nakashige