Campus life by Zuni Chopra: Grieve. Strive.
- Be as negative as you want. But through it all… keep going
It’s 2021, and the world is still a mess. What can I say? Cases skyrocketing. Conflicts spewing out hatred world over. Human misery newly labelled as boundless and at once inexplicable. I write this on the day my university announced that, going against their December plans, they won’t be able to call students back to campus this quarter either. Be happy, people say. Be grateful and be happy. Alas, this advice has evolved from a neatly-crocheted stamp on a couch cushion to a crushing commandment that mocks us in its impossibility. How? How is one to prevent this festering hopelessness, only made stronger by the tentative joys we celebrated to keep it at bay?
It is true that there is great privilege prevalent even in that which we have lost; so many have it so much worse than us. And yet the bottom line remains absolute and obvious: we have lost. This truth is as inescapable as a pandemic, as exponential as prejudice; we have lost. And so we must accept that perhaps emotions of grief, of negativity, of emptiness, are simply a part of loss.
Put a stop
It is pointless, as many of us have learned, to wave banana bread or online shopping in the face of unhappiness and expect it to back away. So my solution is simple – stop trying. Throw the door of emotion wide open. Let yourself rage, weep, curse the ways of this unpredictably cruel world. Feel every inch of the drop on the rollercoaster, screaming all the way down. Accept that our lives have been irrevocably shattered. Irrevocably.
And then the drop will end.
In the acknowledgement of all that we have lost comes the inevitable discovery of all that we have not. Gradually at first, perhaps. Quietly, little by little, as we realise that there are still lights left sparking in a darkened heart. Only in the grieving over a shattered life can we begin to pick up the pieces again, putting them back together like a tattered puzzle into something resembling living.
That’s the next step. Pulling yourself together.
Life may be difficult, but it’s still life. In many respects, it’s still ours to shape and love, and experience. This is why it’s essential that we do not confuse grieving with giving up. Ultimately, it is always easier to pull yourself through than it is to reckon with the rues of letting yourself fall. So, do what you must to get yourself through. The key phrase in that statement is, of course, what you must. If on certain days, the guttural gloom is too overpowering, and you cannot muster the courage to pull back the bedsheets, then sleeping till noon is doing what you must. But on most days, inventing motivation where there is none, planting seeds of joy in the world you make for yourself, pulling yourself to projects that you feel might, with the right spark, mean something to you – that is what you should choose. This is the important discernment – chasing down passions and purpose is no longer only for the peppy and productive. In times like these, striving – and striving unconditionally – is doing what we must.
So grieve. Grump. Be as negative as you want. Swear at your furniture if you have to. But through it all… keep going.
Zuni Chopra is currently a freshman at Stanford university where she’s studying the creative arts. She has authored three books of poetry and one novel. Through this column, she chronicles her journey as an international student leaving home for the first time to study abroad.
From HT Brunch, January 17, 2021
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