This week has been W E I R D.
Not just regular weird. Not a “I’ve had an odd conversation with this person and now I feel weird” kind of weird. Not a “for some reason I just haven’t been productive” kind of weird. This weird week has redefined what the concept of weirdness is to me. I’m sure you feel the same way. And that’s totally fine.
With the idea of ‘Thankful Thursdays”, we want to make sure that everyone squeezes their brains and find out what they’re thankful for in their daily, physically isolated lives. I’m so lucky I don’t have to think too hard to find things that I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for the people who are physically around me at the moment. I’m grateful I’m forced to get moving and working out every day so I don’t roll out of this thing the size of a whale. I’m grateful the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. I’m grateful the plants I’ve bought are growing. I’m grateful my family back in Italy is doing okay. I’m grateful I’m healthy and well. I’m grateful I have an amazing support system around me when my mind goes spiralling down its own road, of its own volition, without me even asking it to do it.
Over the past week, the Corona Community has pretty much taken over the active, social, and event part of the SU Operation, and I am so grateful for that, too. The things that you’ve done for it have made me feel so warm inside, so proud to be working in an organisation where students take that initiative, take action and lead to places we couldn’t possibly think of just on our own. It has also ‘forced’ me to look at the bright side of things, those silver linings we sometimes need to squint our eyes to find in this whole tangled mess. When I sit down and think ‘well, this is a bit shit’, there’s always something happening next, someone to reach out to, people we don’t personally know who just want people coming together in this uncertain time. That, at the end of the day, is what a community is, and this student community has really come through. We are leading by example nationally in the response to this thing and the support we have received has really kept us all going. We are grateful we are working with you to make this a bit better for the people around us.
However, what I also want to say, is that you’re also allowed to feel that everything is just a bit rubbish at the moment. Even in a day when you’re asked what you’re thankful for, it’s valid for you to feel upset. Despite the huge privilege that I have and the situation that I am in, I know I have been upset. I am upset. And forcing that feeling away doesn’t help - you can run away as fast as you can and more, but it will always catch up with you. It has caught up with me when the adrenaline wore off on Monday morning, and it’s been a bit of a lingering feeling since. Fighting it off hasn’t worked - no matter how hard I worked out and how thicc my legs are becoming as a result of all those morning workouts, I can’t kick this feeling away. Being isolated with other people may also make you feel like you can’t fully allow yourself to feel, as the feeling of being a drag, a bit of a burden, is all too vivid in the minds of too many of us. You don’t have to be at 100% all the time. Like a good friend of mine once said, “you can’t pour from an empty teapot”. Ultimately, it’s okay to feel shit. I found myself in tears throughout the past couple of days and a nasty voice in my mind kept telling me “why are you even crying”. Well, This! - we all have a reason to cry at the moment. If it happens, let it. Don’t listen to the voice that tells you to stop - if it was someone else telling you that, you’d slap them. Or at least tell them off.
You’re allowed to feel. It is valid for you to feel, and actually, it’s probably the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. Materialising those feelings and letting them out is a natural part of some days and there is no point in keeping them in - they’re gonna need to come out at some point.
So, folks, I’m grateful and upset at the same time. This part of the year was the one I was really looking forward to. Committee elections. Introducing new committees to the SU and their new roles. Getting them excited about the change they can and will bring about in the lives of their members. The awards season: rewarding and recognising the hard work of our students. The last Score, the last Happy Hour. Students progressively finishing their last exams and trickling out on the sunny lakeside. The SU bringing the Pimm’s out. Summer Ball. I’m upset and I’m upset for you, especially for those who are packing their bags to head out of Bath as students one last time. I’m upset you had to scramble and squeeze in all those goodbyes you weren’t ready to say yet. I’m upset for all of those ‘lasts’ that have been mercilessly and abruptly cut short, like those movies that end in the middle of an action and you’re just there being like “.…what?”. I’m upset your learning is all a bit of a mess at the moment. I’m upset for those of you who are stuck in discomforting situations when you deserve so much better.
I’m also upset my family is in lockdown in the North of Italy. I’m upset my mum is an essential worker and physically has to go to work three times a week. I’m upset when I walk to Fresh and the Parade, that beating concrete heart of our campus, is unsettlingly silent. I’m upset I’m not going to see some of you for some time. Some, for a long time.
You know? These feelings are all valid and they don’t clash with everything that I am so grateful for. When, today, we ask you to think about what you’re grateful for, we’re not asking you to tuck those thoughts away. You can be thankful and allow yourself to feel. You’re no weaker human for feeling. We all have lost something throughout all of this and we’re allowed to grieve.
We all cope with this in different ways, so take all of this as an opportunity to realise what keeps you afloat even when you are on your own. Realise there are different ways that will help you at different times. A couple of days ago, I knitted. Yesterday, I ate a whole bag of Doritos on my own watching the Lady Gaga Monster Ball tape (and I have a feeling nobody is going to judge me for this). Today's a new day and a potential of finding new ways that I can make this situation a bit better.
Thinking about what you’re grateful for throughout such a challenging time can feel a bit of a slap in the face. Remember that everything that you’re feeling, all those thoughts that upset you or make you angry, everything in your head is valid and worth listening to and addressing.
We stand with you as always. We miss you and our heart goes out to each and every one of you. We know this is difficult and there are so many questions the answer to which doesn’t even exist yet. It’s frustrating and it’s challenging the very core of who we are as people. Ultimately, we will all grow so much when this is behind us.
And in the end, in spite this whole chaos, I’m grateful that we’re walking this unfamiliar road together.
With love and solidarity,