At Journey’s End: A Year In Review

With every start of a journey, there is always an end. As there are only two weeks left in the semester, we are all rapidly approaching that end. Recently, I have found myself in a swarm of conflicting emotions along with agonizing pain as the year concludes. Am I sentimental? A little. Do I wish the ending to be swift? Regrettably, yes. 

Unfortunately, that seems to be a common feeling for everybody nowadays. We just want the year to end. While the ending of this year seems to be optimistic, I don’t want to be overzealous and believe that everything is going to work out for the best. Now all that there is to ask is:How do we move on from here? Can we move on from here?”

There is a difference between forgetting and forgiving. This entire year has been defined by controversy, blame, and divisiveness. Not only as a campus but as an entire country, we have become more separated and divided based on race, culture, political opinion, and identity. Instead of accepting each other for our differences, we are now stuck in a spiral of hatred. We no longer are interested in learning more about each other, we no longer seem to care when someone is in pain, we no longer want to know how the other half lives. Essentially, there are rifts in our campus that are largely projected in our broader society today. 

From last semester to this one, we have failed to live up to our institution’s motto, “with ardour and devotion,” and have chosen an alternative path – some might say a darker path. Throughout this school year we have failed to realize how many of us carry and experience pain and trauma in our lives. Whether it is being bullied, harassed, abandoned, or simply feeling lost, there are many of us who carry trauma but have never had the space to share it. Many walk across the hallowed halls of this campus, travel through Commons, and live in our respective dorms, but they are never heard. 

On March 13 of last year, we all lost many things that were important to us: our sense of normalcy, our campus, our friends, and even our family. Living through COVID-19 has brought upon life-changing experiences and long-lasting memories that we will never forget. Especially at Bates and having to deal with social distancing and in-room isolation, many, including myself, suffered from poor mental health and depression. While in recent weeks we have seen better weather, birds chirping, and the growing of grass and flowers, those memories of loneliness and despair outweighs everything. 

I might be in class, exercising, doing everything that I can to free myself from those painful memories, but they always win. The pain, the regret, and shame always seem to overwhelm me at the end of the day. These feelings of hopelessness, despair, and humiliation have become a part of me. I think about Edgar Allen Poe’s “Dream Within A Dream,” and his allusion to dealing with pain and loss, specifically the verse, “I stand amid the roar. Of a surf-tormented shore,” as a metaphor for this year of emotional turmoil. However, it is Poe’s final verse that hits most of all: “Is all that we see or seem. But a dream within a dream?” We must ask ourselves: Has this past year been a dream?” Or more correctly, “Has this past year been a nightmare?”

As Haruki Murakami once said, “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” As the end of the year approaches, I am struggling to survive on the tormented shore. After four years, I have struggled to belong here. Unfortunately, I have realized that I might never find a place to belong. A large part of me, where there was once hope and optimism, has died. In death maybe there will be peace where there wasn’t in life. 

Hopefully, one day, the Bates that many of us once knew can return. Hopefully, one day, we might spend time with our friends, family, and loved ones without worry and without pain. But sometimes optimism isn’t good enough. Sometimes people need more. Sometimes people deserve good fortune and to have their faith rewarded. One day soon, the sun will shine on this campus with bird chirping and the grass growing, but unfortunately, it won’t be in my time. I now fade into the abyss and become a part of the forgotten.