Before and After

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded about the importance of blessings. As the world continues to grapple against COVID-19, I find myself conflicted and morose. While I am thankful that we are at Bates, there are some things that I have not been able to escape from. I have been dealing with the uncertain and struggling with the constant fear: Will I be ok tomorrow? 

For many people, it has never been easy to talk about painful memories and complex emotions. Especially given everything that has happened during this year, from the pandemic, to the death and mistreatment of black people in society, to the economic recession, it has been hard to convince myself that everything is going to get better.

Before the pandemic hit, I was amongst friends and family. In fact, there was an unusual amount of peace and serenity in my life. I was able to have time to be with the ones I loved the most and appreciate their warmth and kindness. I had missed their presence for some time, and I was finally able to have them back. I remember all of the joyful stories, the welcoming embraces, and the heartfelt laughter. I remember that, for once, I was genuinely happy. At this moment in my life, I can look back and say everything was ok. But it was too good to be true. Little did we realize that everything we once knew was going to be changed forever. 

This past May, the United States Census Bureau released a survey reporting one-third of Americans claiming that they have signs of anxiety or depression because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now I’ve asked myself, what is the way forward? Is there a normal to go back to? As we approach October, with the inevitable brisk and cold following, I am caught in a similar headspace. Some people have told me to move on. Some people believe that despite everything that has happened, we can eventually get back on the right path. But I’ve paid the price for overzealousness. 

This past week has been especially difficult, as I continued to be reminded of the tragic circumstances facing our society. With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I have lost hope that our government represents our best interest. With the court’s decision regarding the Breonna Taylor case, I am reminded that black people continue to be mistreated and disregarded, both within civil society as well as our criminal justice system. Where does the pain seem to end? For some, pain is a distant thought while others experience it constantly. 

During the peak of COVID-19, the United States was dealing with a rise in mental health concerns. Back in July, 53% of adults in the U.S. reported to have increased signs of stress and worry due to the pandemic up from 39% in May. Many adults have had difficulty navigating through the pandemic, whether in terms of alcoholism, drug and substance abuse, or sleeping difficulties. In addition, several of these spikes in mental health concerns have been related to social isolation and unemployment. Like most people, I have tried to deal with the challenges of the pandemic as best I can. I have worn my mask. I have stayed six feet away from people. However, the pandemic continues to challenge me emotionally. 

Some people can move on from pain while others have more difficulty. Especially when you lose someone who you’ve known all of your life, you feel hollow. There’s an empty space now that didn’t exist before. Now you feel broken. Losing someone who you love feels as though your breath has been taken away. All of the memories, the warm embraces, the joyful moments, as well as the tearful ones, come rushing in. You can see their face. You can hear them talking to you. However, you know it’s only a dream. When you wake up and realize that they are not there anymore, your body aches, screaming in pain. Nowadays I often ask myself: Why are they gone? Why did I not appreciate them when they were here? I am shrouded by guilt and misery as I carry on my life without them.

Some may remember their loved ones through photographs, music, or poetry. For me, it has been through self-reflection and visualization. Whether it’s reading a book or going for a walk, I am reminded of my loved ones. Different parts of nature and surroundings bring back memories. It may be the wind blowing against the trees, the sun peeking in through the clouds, or simply the passing of time. After everything that has happened over the summer, creating that space for myself has been demanding. Especially as we continue to survive through this year of social division and health crises, the attention to mental health has been lacking. 

Over this summer, I lost a very close friend of mine. She was more than just a friend to me. When you have known someone for your entire life, it’s hard to move on knowing that person is gone. It’s been hard to comprehend this loss, especially because during her life, she always showed me kindness when others would not. 

Regardless of the day, whenever we saw each other in person, she would always say hello. It’s unfortunate that sometimes the people who are nicest to you are the people who you spend the least amount of time with. Once filled with optimism and happiness, I now have a space that has become null and void. There is no timeline for grief. Some days I might be just walking and the memory of my late friend renders me motionless. I try and continue going about my day with the hope of things returning to normal. But there is no normal to go back to. There is only before and after. I wish my friend was still here. I wish I could say hi to her again.