Hi! It’s been a few months since I last posted–and with good reason. I’ve been slogging through a tough semester of grad school. My first semester was fueled by what felt like a four month long adrenaline rush combined with classes that I loved: ethics, social psychology, and psychological theory. Spring semester 2020 was quite different. The adrenaline was gone, the classes were not as fun, and my research really started to pick up. By spring break, I was just ready for the semester to end. I was in New Jersey visiting my boyfriend over the break and I was there when classes moved online through the end of March. As you already know, things quickly worsened and Spring semester moved entirely online (now Summer classes are online too).
I am so grateful to be in graduate school with a guaranteed stipend and have little to complain about, but my morale took a bit of a nosedive. In thinking about that, I’ve found myself grappling with feelings of guilt. I have so much privilege during this time. I am healthy. I can afford to stock up on groceries. I have access to healthcare. I have space to self-isolate. I can wear a mask in public and not feel afraid. I don’t have to worry about hate crimes being committed against me. The list goes on and on. I have so much to be grateful for, but that does not mean that I can’t be sad, disappointed, or angry about what we are experiencing. I’ve been struggling between those two all-or-nothing mentalities. I find myself feeling guilty when I complain that I can’t go to the gym because I remember that others can’t even feel safe right now. This is when I try to practice self-compassion; while my problems are small, they are still real and valid to me right now. I try to remain gentle with myself while also expressing gratitude for what I have. I also make a a point to do what I can do to make a difference, whether that’s writing a loved one a letter, donating blood, or sending an old friend a text to check in.
Moving my rambling to a broader level, I’ve been thinking about how COVID-19 is changing our country’s narrative. This pandemic is exposing so many disparities in our country. While other regional or local events have exposed disparities in different ways (e.g. the Flint water crisis), the broad nation-wide effects of the pandemic are almost impossible to ignore. As someone who is dedicated to research focused on health disparities, this national wake-up call is both inspiring and horrifying. Inspiring in that health disparities are making national headlines and are a topic of conversation. Horrifying in that it took a national pandemic to get us to a place where we can recognize the injustice that has been occurring throughout U.S. history.
In making sense of the past six weeks, I’ve reached two conclusions: 1) Everyone has their own set of problems; take on new perspectives and stay compassionate. 2) Caring about health disparities cannot be a passing trend due to the coronavirus; it was a problem before and it will be a problem after. We have serious work to do.
Thank you for letting me stand on my soap box and ramble about my own thoughts and what I care about most.