Duke belongs to us, we belong to Duke

guest column

As Duke students, we like to pride ourselves in our grit and mental toughness. There's a very distinct culture here that attracts and cultivates the student that over-extends, over-achieves and laughs in the face of adversity. We share passions for social justice, community involvement and the pursuit of knowledge. We love making memes that epitomize the collective student experience. We work hard, we play harder and we enjoy every step of the process—as much as we also love to complain and pretend that we don't. 

That collective identity is strong. Ever since my first year, I've integrated everything it means to be a Duke student into the person I am. I considered it an integral part of the student and woman I hoped to become throughout my time here. I knew, in many ways, that Duke belonged to me. I've always known that. 

But it's times like these that have made me realize the undeniable truth in the converse: that I also belong to Duke.

Remaining in my off-campus Durham apartment during the heat of the pandemic has been desolating. Yes, I feel grateful and happy to continue existing in the safe space I have curated for myself. I'm blessed with the opportunity to obtain far more closure than most. It's a privilege I acknowledge and treasure; my heart bleeds for the hundreds of other seniors who are not so lucky. Nonetheless, it's impossible to shake the hauntingly exigent aura of despondency that permeates the streets of Durham. 

To be near campus right now is to live amidst ruin: a constant reminder of what's been taken and what's been lost. There's a harrowing dissonance between feeling so connected to everything about Duke while still attempting to process that it's lightyears away. Sometimes, it helps to roam Ninth Street and the East Campus trail, allowing myself to be plagued with nostalgia. It's almost too easy to sit in my room and replay the daily routine that characterized my senior year: to remember the wine nights and movie marathons I shared with friends while cuddled on my living room floor. Mourning the loss of my morning walks to campus. The early mornings in Vondy. The somewhat masochistic, self-imposed self-hatred during procrastination in Gothic. Div-Caf's oatmeal. The freeing feeling of walking into Wilson. The spirit. The breathlessness that accompanied each time the C1 circled the roundabout and cruised onto Chapel Drive, revealing the Chapel in all of her majestic glory. I'm still mourning the loss of every moment I took for granted. Nearly two weeks later, some days are better than others. But sometimes it seems as though I'll never truly be at peace. 

Duke belongs to all of us. And there are parts of us that will always belong to Duke. So many of us were deprived of our goodbyes. Closure was ripped from our hands before we got the chance to process and reflect on our experiences, asking ourselves on the eve of graduation: "Where the f**k do we go from here?" As we scramble now to answer that question, I take solace in the knowledge that we're all sort of figuring it out together. The collective suffering through all we've lost is but another way that Duke has bonded us together.

Every day, I remind myself that it's okay not to be okay. It's okay to grieve, and it's okay to remember the way things used to be as you slowly grapple with the acceptance of how things have changed. I lean on those I love for support, and I smile at the warmth I feel knowing that they're leaning on me too. 

We are Duke. 

And we are resilient.

Sabrina Maciariello is a Trinity senior.


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