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Deadlines and difficult times

staff note

From the ninth floor of the hospital, you can see really far off into the distance. Once your eyes move past the miles of trees and trace the Congaree river, they’ll eventually land on the few skyscrapers that mark Columbia’s downtown. Hovering on the horizon is a familiar gray sheet of clouds that gently transitions into a friendly sky blue.

On the thirty minute car ride home from the hospital, I fell asleep. The night before had been a long one, just like every other one these days. I’m way behind on literally everything: my schoolwork, my friendships and even this article you’re reading right now. It would be fair to say I have an unhealthy relationship with deadlines. 

Even though it feels like due dates rule my life, I have no choice but to subscribe to the endless barrage of assignments thrown at me. It doesn’t help that everything is online — learning for the sake of learning jumped out the window the moment I stepped off Duke’s campus way back in March. With any sense of actual purpose replaced by Zoom meetings and Sakai discussions, my ADHD can take the wheel, and eight months later I am here writing an article due at least one day ago.

However, my mom used to always remind me to not blame my problems on my ADHD. And she’s right! I know I’m capable of better. I survived high school, I survived freshman year and I’ll survive this. But I can’t help but not feel too hard on myself — life isn’t exactly a breeze right now. Need I remind you, we are in the middle of a pandemic that has upended any sense of normalcy. 

The thing I miss the most from pre-quarantine is probably my social life. Despite being at home, I don’t have the option of selfishly flaunting social distancing rules because of my family’s medical situation, and as a distance learner I am missing the opportunity to see my friends. But, then again, I can always just text them! So should I really be complaining? 

Well, honestly, I don’t know. The hardest part of the situation is how isolating being away from campus feels when nearly all my friends are in dorms. I could text them every single hour of the day and still have massive FOMO. Regardless, I’ll try to leave the self-hatred at the door, but I don’t want to indulge in self-pity either. Where is that middle ground? Acceptance? Self-confidence? I’m not sure, but whatever it is, I want it. 

Not everything is doom-and-gloom nowadays, though. My favorite part of being home is getting to see my family everyday. From being home for my little sister’s birthday to experiencing the household gaining a new kitten, there’s so many bright spots I’m incredibly lucky to experience. In fact, this morning, seeing my family is exactly what I’m going to be doing. 

My dad and I are going to see my mom in the hospital. She’s been there ever since a routine shoulder surgery went nightmarishly wrong, After flatlining, several days in the intensive care unit and at least three more near-death experiences, she’s finally progressed spending her hours in a regular room on the ninth floor of the hospital.

We reached downtown when we got a phone call from my sobbing mom. She’s in a lot of pain today: her doctor thinks she re-cracked one of the ribs that was broken during CPR. Unfortunately, there’s not really much we can do. Even if I could help, I wouldn’t know what to do, so all I can do is feel hopeless and wait until we get there. 

People always mention how crises bring clarity. I’d be inclined to agree, if I didn’t feel so perpetually lost nowadays. For sure, the current situation makes me incredibly thankful that things didn’t turn out worse, which is a perspective I definitely didn’t have a month ago. But at the same time, I am more confused, helpless and pessimistic than I’d like to be. I may not know what the future is going to look like, but at least I know I’ll be able to survive it, whatever that “it” may be.


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