On handling emotions when the world is ending
Sometimes it’s better to move on from the hurt and the anger
It’s been a difficult couple of weeks, and I’m sure everyone has been reeling from the sheer amount of change that’s occurred. Sitting here, quarantined, I’ve been thinking a lot about our response, as a nation, as a school, and as individuals, to the COVID-19 crisis.
At the beginning, I was mad, as were many other people on campus. I was mad that they were forcing us to go home, without knowing the level of infection in the student body, so that we can go on to infect the rest of the country. I was mad that students who relied on MIT as their source of stability had that ripped out from under them. I was mad that I couldn’t provide anything other than words of comfort to them, that I couldn’t bring them home with me like many others were able to. I was mad that I wouldn’t be able to help out at MGH, in whatever capacity I was able to, in these understaffed times.
Why would they take low-risk individuals and release them to a country full of high-risk individuals? What would be so wrong about having all of us get sick, and get better, in the comfort of our dorm rooms and ever-supportive friends?
And then I got a phone call, from my mom downstairs. She asked if I was done sulking and ready to move on. Honestly, that made me even more mad than I had been.
I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate her efforts. My mom was literally delivering food to my door three times a day, and all I was doing was giving her one-word answers. But who was she to tell me to just finish up being sad, as if I had control over any of this?
Online, I saw a shift towards positivity as well. People posting inspirational quotes, good news, helpful tricks, and healthy practices. I thought to myself, “maybe this is what the world needs.” I reminded myself of all the humanity shown to me in the past two weeks. Alumni, faculty, and grad students stepped up when no one asked. We somehow found time between our goodbyes and many, many boxes to collect food and clothing donations. So many angels let me vent and held my hand through it all.
But moving on comes at a cost of forgetting. And I’m afraid that if I put on this brave face of optimism, I’ll lose the fire that wants to hold the government and MIT’s administration accountable for their failures to protect their most vulnerable. I don’t want to forget how it felt to have my four days to pack up and say goodbye suddenly cut down to 16 hours. How furious I was listening to my friends who were denied exemptions. How my heart broke hugging the seniors goodbye.
As I let go of the last slivers of anger, I guess the compromise is to write it down. Only black ink on white paper is going to remember how egregious it was for admin to kick the undergraduates off campus, calling it the utterly misrepresentative “de-densification.” Only my journal will know that it was just another item on their checklist of crisis control, that they expressed less remorse about it than the ramp down of research.
I’ll tell my friends that we’ll get through it all, and that I’ll see them back on campus before we can even say “coronavirus.”