Y’all, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. Actually, it feels like this whole term has been one new type of hell after the other.
After the intensity of 8th week on top of some personal struggles, for some reason I decided the best way to recharge on Saturday would be to stay out and about at Zoo Days and the recess field day for a good six hours. Don’t get me wrong, the cotton candy and real-live kittens and puppies were everything I dreamed they would be, but by the time I was walking home from capture the flag around 5:45pm after leaving my room at 12:30pm, I was beat. It was not exactly the lazy Saturday I was hoping for.
Am I the only one who feels just caught in the undertow? At some point probably way back in the slog of winter term, I got stranded at sea far from shore, and now I’m stuck there. I swim toward the shore, pumping my arms as hard as I can, then just when my toes touch sand I get bombarded by a new wave that knocks me back again. Sometimes I make it close enough to walk, that slow moon-walk you do in waist-to-shoulder-deep water, twisting your whole body just to move one step. But the minute I make one slip-up or lose my balance, the waves knock me back again. I’ve tried lying on my back and just coasting for a while to save my strength, hoping the waves will gradually carry me back to shore. But when I lift my head again, it feels like I’ve just drifted further out.
On my walk home, I ran into a friend, and we decided to just sit on the grass outside Warch to watch the Melanin Music performances for the rest of the day. It turned out to be exactly what I needed. We got dinner—a godsend of boneless wings, sweet potato fries and mediocre soft serve from the commons—spread out a blanket, and just listened and cheered and relaxed almost until the sun went down.
At this event, there were incredibly talented Black singers, songwriters, poets, and dancers I had never seen at any other open mics, and I’ve been to a lot of them. To everyone out there who found Melanin Music “exclusionary”, I challenge you to think about all the other opportunities white creatives get to show off their talent at Lawrence and who is really excluded every single day in this predominantly white institution we attend.
Even during this most relaxing period of my day, I was still frustrated thinking about how many barriers and opponents this event had in the way of its success.
I think a lot of us have been waiting to “return to normal”, since the complete failure of a mask-friendly first two weeks of Spring term, since two years ago when the pandemic started. We’re waiting to find some semblance of routine, so we can know we’re okay, that things will get better. But over the past three months, as I keep waiting for something that hasn’t come, and as the “normal” people talk about is increasingly backwards, racist, and steeped in the toxicity of your-only-value-as-a-human-being-is-your-ability-to-work late stage capitalism, I’ve realized I haven’t the slightest idea what “normal” means. What is normal? At what point in your life are things ever just “normal”? Is “normal” something we even want or need?”
I read a poem in my Expressions of Ethnicity class last week called “New Days Lyric” by Amanda Gorman. Gorman addresses this narrative that the media, Lawrence administration, and even our government keep talking about of striving to return to normal, to go back to a time before masks, before vaccines and sickness and death, when we could go about our days without fear.
They promise: “Oh you know, one of these days we’re going to get back to normal. These unions are temporary. These protests are temporary. Soon we will get back to normal.”
Gorman says: “Even if we never get back to normal, someday we can venture beyond it. To leave the known and take the first steps. So let us not return to what was normal, but reach toward what is next.”
I’ve been waiting for something that hasn’t come for two months, for two years, and eventually, I’m going to have to admit to myself that what I’m waiting for is the past, not the future. Gorman offers us, in a world that will hopefully never return to normal, a mindset, a reaching toward, a turning our attention toward, instead of away from, what is, instead of what could be.
As things become less and less certain, and the only constant in my life is the lack of consistency, all I can do is reach for and become comfortable with my discomfort.
Who need the plate with no piece of the pie? Why go to work when we’re all gonna die? Why should I slave till I’m sixty years old? You’re going broke after selling your soul when you could…