Lonely in a way that I am privileged not to have experienced before this point.
At college, I live in a 15-foot box with two of my best friends. I take classes with people puzzled by the same problems and enraged over the same injustices as I am, with peers whose passions relentlessly stoke my own but who also provide needed reassurance they haven’t started the essay either.
I stay up until 2 a.m. on Tuesday nights with The Fordham Ram, an amazing collective of people who share in the duty of articulation, using words to inform, compel and comfort. On weekends, I go out and explore the city, leaving my dorm with little more than a destination and a haphazard plan. Other times, I sit in my room next to friends and silently scroll through Twitter, appreciating an intimacy that does not require words.
At school, I am surrounded by a group of young people who also juggle having fun and being reckless with a deep-seated concern for social justice, politics and climate change.
Unfortunately, I am no longer at college. Thanks to social media and the efforts of teachers, friends and the newspaper staff, I am still able to take classes, share aspects of my personality online and write articles. However, it is not the same. Friday night laughter over Zoom is interrupted by breaks in WiFi, penciled edits and in-person collaboration replaced by suggested edits on Google Docs and silent Twitter binges experienced largely alone.
Virtual communication sometimes feels like a tease, a hint of college life that reminds me how much I want to go back to the real thing and how terrified I am that we won’t in the fall. Only able to express myself online, social media has become more of a construction of my identity than simply a reflection of it. I really miss my friends, and yet I cannot ignore that I am one of the luckiest ones; thousands of people are dying, and thousands more are risking their lives trying to save them. In short, the coronavirus really sucks.
We are told constantly to find silver linings in the pandemic. People are celebrating the increase in time spent with family, a new appreciation for the outdoors and learning how to bake bread. Some argue that the coronavirus pandemic was a necessary event, one we needed to learn about human solidarity and strength. There is always the “things could be worse” mindset: “I can’t go the movies, but at least there is Netflix,” or “There is not enough PPE for doctors, but look how amazing it is people are sewing their own masks.”
However, sometimes the optimism is exhausting or maybe even a bit invalidating. In search of so much good news, I think I have struggled to have an obligatory confrontation with the bad. That is to say that maybe, sometimes, we need a bit of a guilt-free pity party, to fully feel the weight of our own losses and experience the painful empathy for those struggling so much more than we are. It is okay to miss the movies and worry intensely for the safety of medical staff simultaneously. It is okay to admit that a pandemic is a difficult and uncertain time to live through and that no amount of sourdough bread can make that go away.
Confessing that we are hurt or angered by the situation and acknowledging our privileges despite it are not mutually exclusive, nor is welcoming moments of respite while wanting to return to normalcy. I love my family and am thankful to have this time with them, but I still wish every day that I was living with my friends at Fordham. Taking walks and listening to music puncture a perpetuity of anxiety, but this stress can still be at times overwhelming. In these sentiments, I know I am not alone.
Please continue to find silver linings and share good news, but do not feel as though you must always be optimistic. It is natural to feel sad, lonely and afraid because this pandemic is distressing, isolating and scary. We should acknowledge that.