About a year ago, I lost a close friend. Tanya Mitra was a Tufts alumna, member of the taekwondo team, and self described “team mother.” Even though she was in medical school in New Jersey, she still made time to come up and see her old friends and meet the newer members. Her smile was a light in any room and her love of life was infectious. She acted in the club as a sort of omniscient presence even when she wasn’t there—she was always the first to congratulate you on a fight that you were pretty sure she had no way of knowing about. I remember stepping off the mat and checking my phone to see a text from Tanya with a big happy face. It was magic.
The team was up at Cornell University for a tournament the next day and getting ready for bed when we found out that Tanya had passed away on the evening before her 25th birthday. That night was rough for all involved, and the next day was no different. Some of us competed, or rather, tried to. Having trained with Tanya almost every day that summer, I thought she would have wanted me to fight. Like a few others, I tried to put up a good fight but I was too drained.
The next week was a blur of missed classes, memorials, and texts from concerned friends, all culminating with the funeral near her home in New Jersey. There is nothing as heartbreaking as a funeral for a friend. I got to see many alums and friends who had known Tanya, but I didn’t want to see them under these conditions. Even still, I was glad for their presence—I had told myself repeatedly that I would be strong and not cry anymore, but when that didn’t hold, I had lots of people there for me.
A few weeks ago, the team went back to Cornell. I knew it was going to be difficult, and through the week I tried to prepare myself for any sort of emotional meltdown. As soon as I stepped out of the car the memories hit hard, and the competition the next day went a little bit easier, though I was still not really with it. Instead of being excited to fight, I was nervous and scared and I lost my cool in the ring.
Even now I still get these moments of sadness, but they pass quickly. I’ve found it gets easier and easier to remember Tanya as a beautiful and strong young woman instead of a person whose funeral I attended. The drive to New Jersey is replaced by memories of her last visit to Tufts. The memory of holding hands with some alums and standing by her grave for a final goodbye is beginning to fade as the memory of that time that we skipped practice together and got two HUGE cups of gelato (because you just need that sometimes) grows ever more clear.
I guess my point here is that not everybody is okay all the time and that’s perfectly all right. We Jumbos are curious, intellectual, and happy to be at Tufts surrounded by friends, but not always. Even the happiest of college students feel sad sometimes and that’s okay. Part of being in this college environment is recognizing that your needs and wants and feelings aren’t the same as those of your peers. In this case, a little understanding goes a long way. So while I’m still dealing with the death of a friend, who knows what those around me are going through? I can only hope that like me, those who are hurting are able to rely on friends and family while they make that transition from pain to peace.