the hanged man

In tarot, the hanged man draws on the idea of delayed gratification because there is the promise that on the other side of the pain awaits a tantalizing future. Courtesy image

At 5 years old, my two most beloved possessions were a hardcover copy of Little House on the Prairie, which I hauled everywhere with me, and a pair of pink glasses detailed with an icon of Garfield.

One day, I was picked up early from kindergarten. My mom drove me to Las Vegas, N.M., for an eye doctor appointment and, on the way back, she made a fateful detour on a whim. We stopped at United World College. That day 11 years ago, I spent an afternoon the same way I will spend the next two years: as a student at United World College USA.

United World College is an international boarding school for students during their last two years of high school. There are 18 campuses across four continents. The only one in America happens to be in Montezuma. The student body is composed of teens from 95 countries. In addition to providing an International Baccalaureate curriculum, there is an emphasis placed on leadership, conflict resolution and sustainability. Its website states: “Central to the ethos of UWC is the belief that education can bring together young people from all backgrounds on the basis of their shared humanity, to engage with the possibility of social change through courageous action, personal example and selfless leadership.”

From my only visit when I was a child, I remember eating apple pie at a table where everyone was from a different country and sitting on a rocking chair on a veranda of a castle that felt reminiscent of Hogwarts. I remember rainbows falling against my face in the Dwan Light Sanctuary. I remember being interviewed by a woman across a big wooden desk. She asked me about what I was reading, and I happily replied that I was in the midst of Little House on the Prairie.

Mock interview when I was 5 aside, the application process for United World College in which I partook in winter was surprisingly enjoyable. Up until that point, I had viewed education somewhat begrudgingly, a barrier I had to surmount in order to start “real life.” Through the process, I gained a sense of empowerment in regards to my education because I was vying for an opportunity to learn in an environment that resonated deeply with me.

Even though I’m elated to be attending UWC, this summer has been a mourning period for me. I have had to loosen my grip around the pillars of my life in Santa Fe: my family, my friends and the city that raised me.

I find it helpful during pivotal moments to pull a card from my tarot deck. Recently, I picked the hanged man. The card depicts a man hanging from one ankle upside down. Despite the pain of this position, the man maintains an expression of serenity. He hangs by his ankle out of choice, and he is at peace with his decision. This card draws on the idea of delayed gratification because there is the promise that on the other side of the pain awaits a tantalizing future. Because the hanged man generally arrives during a spell of waiting, it is said the best way to endure the interlude is to surrender.

And that is what I’m attempting these last few months at home — to surrender to the discomfort of leaving for the thrill and unknowns of the next two years at United World College.

Aviva Nathan will be attending United World College USA as a junior this fall. Contact her at

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