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“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a well-known cliché. Though Nietzsche was a little more eloquent in coining the phrase, this is the version that’s ingrained in our minds, thanks to Etsy’s wide array of T-shirts and pillowcases sporting it and Kelly Clarkson’s 2011 hit song. So it’s no secret in 2020 that failure is an opportunity to learn as opposed to something necessarily negative. But I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m down, I don’t want to hear that.
Quarantine has, I assume, pushed us all to some kind of edge, whether it’s manically honing dozens of hobbies and skills for a sense of productivity, or biding your time by lazing around the house and having regular existential crises, or maybe oscillating between the two. I personally tend more toward the “biding my time” option, but thankfully I’ve also been able to hone a skill or two here and there, particularly cooking. And a few weeks ago, I was able to cross off one of the things that’s been on my cooking bucket list for years.
In my last column, I boldly claimed that I had learned to listen to what I want through my study abroad experience in Sweden. Yet listening to my heart still proves to be a challenge. Even if I’ve wanted to follow my desires — my true inclinations — sometimes I didn’t know what they were. Every option has a flip side. One option seems better because of this, and the other seems good because of that. In another light, I have to lose something either way.
As the plane landed in Baltimore, the sun set. A brilliant fiery globe, fiercely yellow against the red sky. My first thought was ‘Wow, this means something.’ A new start maybe. The sun setting on my old life and a new dawn breaking. My second thought was to dismiss this — I have often chided myself for my romantic notions, my silly thought process, my living life as if it is a novel or a movie. Yes, my romanticization of things has gotten me into trouble a lot of times, and yes, my life does have more drama than most. And yes, I do not think I would have wanted it any other way.
To say, “I graduated from high school in 2020,” holds a lot more meaning than we might have thought it would. For those of us who wear that badge, it means an orchestra of mixed emotions, and with good reason: As graduating seniors, we expected the nine months between college application deadlines and the first day of college to be smooth sailing. And suffice it to say, we were royally ripped off.
“We can’t make anything grow, but we can foster environments where growth is a byproduct of living.”
Even before the pandemic hit, staying at home everyday always left me feeling restless. I am the type of person who needs to be out and about doing something productive, whether it’s finishing errands, meeting with friends or simply walking in the park. So, aware that I would be spending countless monotonous days at home in this new normal, I knew I had to redirect my energy somewhere else. That’s why I turned to working out and learning yoga.
I can’t sleep. The humidity thickens the air, but the storm is long gone. My house is dark without power; only a few candles are lit here or there. The moonbeams drift in, shallow and blue, but the moon is so large it fills the window panes. These days, I am waiting for confirmation that I’m walking the right path.
Life has a funny way of teaching you a lesson sometimes.
There’s no denying that this has been an incredibly strange summer. For me it began with frantic plane rides, a hotel quarantine and a country-wide lockdown. Everything I thought I valued and considered important was put into question. As the world battles the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this summer has turned into an extended period of self-reflection. I understand how incredibly privileged I am to have typed that last sentence. Essential workers and healthcare workers are working tirelessly day in and day out to keep us safe and minimize the damage of this horrible virus. Yet I have the ability to wear a mask and spend time with my family and close friends.
I really think I have lost the ability to write. I write a few lines, then erase them. I repeat the process until the page is finally blank and I have no more starters, no more words. I really think somehow I have lost the ability to create. I do not know if this is a normal feeling to have or if this is some sort of side effect of the pandemic, but I know I have it. So I have decided that, instead of worrying about the exact order of words or which ones would make my writing “prettier,” I will just write.
I’ve been thinking about alternative timelines a lot lately. When you’re at the start of something, you imagine a thousand possibilities. When you’re at the end, you imagine a thousand other ways it could have gone.
On Wednesday, March 11, we sat together in our Gatehouse office for the last time.
In my college essay, I had proudly proclaimed that I was not afraid of uncertainty, that I was not scared of complexity, that shades of gray only inspired me. I have to confess that it does not hold true today after three years of college. Perhaps it was never true. But I had never quite experienced this particular shade of gray that now makes me so queasy about the world we live in. I’m not queasy because I think that shade of gray is wrong, but I’m queasy because it is so universal and so complicated that there is no way to characterize it.
In two hours, I’m going to be logging in to my last class, which is going to be the last class I ever attend. It feels like a milestone in my life — leaving the comfort of academia to finally venture out into the unknown.
Our semesters were cut short almost five weeks ago. Since we received that first email announcing that classes wouldn’t resume until April 12, I had been struggling with the decision to go home to Singapore. The uncertainty surrounding when the University would reopen and the perils of airports and airplanes at a time like this were some of the reasons that this decision was extremely difficult.
I want to start by saying that this is completely natural to feel after a breakup. Your ex-boyfriend was at one point a significant part of your life and someone you cared for, so it’s natural to wonder what he’s up to now. Sometimes even years after we sever a relationship with someone, we wonder what or how they’re doing. This is common, but that doesn’t make it any easier; it’s a tough temptation to get over.
From my fall semester in Paris, I remember one interaction at a grocery store particularly well. I initiated basic small talk in French with the cashier, who seized upon my American accent and responded in English. When he handed me a receipt to sign, he said, “I need your autograph,” unintentionally implying that I was a celebrity. I lived off of this glory for the rest of the semester. It made up for all the other times that my French was shot down.
My mind feels like a graffitied wall. Emotions are scribbled diagonally and circularly in curlicue font and bold typeface. The neon colors are the random FaceTime calls from friends I miss. Black ramblings are the moments right before I go to sleep and right after I wake up and I remember why I’m in the room I left behind three years ago. Why is it that when it is mandated to stay home I want to leave the most?
Content warning: The following article includes topics some readers may find triggering, including sexual assault.