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I just opened my laptop to begin writing this when I received the notice that all classes have transitioned to be online for the rest of the semester. Immediately I’m hit with the thought “Us too?” I’ve heard about other schools closing, but I guess what people say is true, you never think it’ll happen to you.
Now we at ISU are faced with the reality that our lives won’t be the same for a while.
Now we at ISU are faced with the reality that our lives won't be the same for a while. For some of us that means returning home to our families two months early. Others it means having your sport season finished. For some it’s facing the uncertainty of being without a job for some time. For all of us, it means adjusting to college in a whole new way and with that facing so many unknowns, unanswered questions, fears, emotions, loss. Every one of these obstacles poses the same question to us, “How?”
I say “how” and not “what” or “why”, because the answer to “how” is different for every single one of us. Asking what or why can be answered with practical, almost blanket answers from the government, school administrations, or parents. “How” is personal. The answer to how can’t be given in the form of an email, or an address from those in power, or really from anyone else. The answer to how starts and ends with you.
The thought of this is scary. It’s scary for me right now. My how is unanswered. I don’t know what things are going to be like. I don’t know how school is going to go. I don’t know how I’m going to handle not seeing some of the closest people in my life. I’m certain every one of us are feeling similar.
I don’t have and won’t pretend to have answers for all for us. That’s not why I chose to write this, because as I said, your answer will be different than mine. Rather, what I have to offer is an encouragement to grieve. To not ignore the gravity of the situation for yourself, but instead to be open and honest. All this could be summed up by the phrase “Embrace the sorrow.”
What this means looks different for all of us, but where it starts can look similar. To embrace the sorrow of your situation, whatever it is, starts with honestly thinking, talking, writing down how you really feel about all this. Admitting to yourself that you are angry, you are sad, you are scared. These emotions are so often hidden or repressed for the sake of “being okay”, but genuine healing starts when we are willing to admit we aren’t okay.
An illustration I like to use when thinking about this sort of thing is this: Imagine you have been wounded, wounded bad. It’s deep and hurts a lot, all over. The wound is ugly and is causing you to act different than usual. It needs help, but maybe you’re afraid to ask. Maybe you’re worried people will judge you for how you got it, or maybe you feel like you can convince yourself it’s not so bad. Whatever your reason, you choose to instead of curing the wound, you put a band aid over it. You hide it from the watching world and yourself. You continue life as normal, all while this wound continues to hurt you. You’re coping, not healing.
Where embracing the sorrow fits into this is like this: Instead of putting a band-aid on that wound, you peel back the band-aid and look at the wound for what it is. You look into what is hurt and why, you start to figure out what could help cure you. This process could be messy. You might have to face the world still hurt, people might know something is wrong, you might have to tell people about it so they can help you. But overtime, because you were brave, because you were willing to be honest about it, because you were willing to talk, you begin to see the wound heal.
Translate this into where we are now. Maybe you’re a senior who is faced with losing your last semester. That’s your wound. Maybe you’re an athlete whose season was cut short. That’s your wound. Maybe you’ve just been told you have to move back home to somewhere that doesn’t feel like a home anymore. That’s your wound. All of us because of this are wounded. How we will heal is not with band-aids. Band-aids could be not talking about this with anyone, or pretending like it doesn’t bother you, or maybe you do talk about this stuff but finish with “…but it’s okay. You don’t have to be okay if you’re not. Healing for these wounds starts with embracing the fact they're real.Healing for these wounds starts with embracing the fact they’re real.
I don’t know all of you who will read this, I don’t know if anyone will read this. But if you do, though I don’t know you, know I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you lost your last semester. I’m sorry if you can’t compete anymore. I’m sorry if home is going to be really hard for you. I’m sorry if you, like me, don’t know the answer to how. I hope you know though, that you are supported, you are valued, you are seen, you are heard. I encourage you all to find a way to begin embracing the sorrow of whatever situation you are in. Maybe for you that’s journaling through your thoughts, fears, or emotions about all this. Maybe it’s calling a close friend and asking if they can just listen for a bit while you talk. Maybe it’s going for a drive and just being alone with your thoughts for a while. Whatever it is, I encourage you to pursue it.
Embracing the sorrow could be the start of your answer to “How?”. Understanding where you’re at with all this builds the foundation for the answer to that question.
As we continue through this, know we continue together.
Love and prayers,
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