One of the strangest things about college is the feeling that you’re living in a bubble. You’re living in a bubble where almost all of your concerns are about your school work, your grades, your future. You worry about academic things, and social things and college things. Sometimes you forget that life is moving forward in the real world too. Last week my friends and I had the real world thrown at us pretty roughly, and we’re still figuring out how to deal.
On Wednesday morning one of my closest friends at Tufts found out her dad died. It came as a surprise. She took a leave of absence of a couple weeks to return home and be with her family.
I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now. I can’t say that I understand or that I know it will be ok, because right now I don’t know anything. I know that she must be devastated. I know that it’s not going to be easy to come back here, half a world away from her family. I know that we’re all brokenhearted for her.
During my 10:30 Intro to International Relations class last Wednesday, I opened a text message from my friend Kristina. We have a running group message and I assumed it would be something amusing but entirely pointless. We have a nice little group of six going on here at Tufts. We’re the kind of friends that just work, and sometimes I can’t believe how unbelievably lucky I am to have found them Instead, the message was news that our friend’s father had passed away. It was a surprise to everyone and she was packing her bags to fly home that night. It was about 45 minutes into class when I read Kristina’s message. I have no real recollection of anything my professor said after that. For another 45 minutes I argued with myself about standing up and walking out of the lecture. There was nothing I could do to help, but I wanted more than anything to be useful. As soon as class ended, my friends and I basically ran back to the dorm.
There’s something so heartbreaking about watching someone you love suffer and knowing that you can’t make it better. What can you do for someone who just lost their father? A hug? A joke? It all seemed so stupid. Sure I could make her laugh now, but she still has a fourteen hour flight ahead of her to cry. I’m not good at serious situations. I’m good at jokes. I’m good at fun and adventure. I’m not good at knowing what to say to make something better. I don’t even know if there’s anything you can say to make something like that better.
I didn’t go to the rest of my classes on Wednesday. Some of my friends did, but they said they weren’t really present anyway. We sat in Dewick for lunch and said almost nothing. People came by and tried to strike up normal conversations, but they didn’t know what had happened and we didn’t want to tell them so we hardly answered. Eventually they walked away and we remained inside our own heads. Returning to the dining hall for dinner sounded impossible, so we walked into Davis to eat. We went to our favorite restaurant, Taipei Tokyo (throwback to my last, happier blog post) and played games to distract ourselves. Taipei faces the Davis Square T stop, and it was about 8:00 as we walked out.
“Let’s get on a train.” One of my friends said suddenly. She didn’t say it in a whimsical, if only we didn’t have school tomorrow kind of way. It was a flat suggestion. Let’s just get on a train and go somewhere that isn’t here, right now. Let’s just leave. And so we did. We didn’t go far, just to Harvard Square, but it was the act of leaving that mattered, not the end location. So we spent the night in Harvard square, walking in the rain. We talked about serious things, we laughed about stupid jokes, and it was ok in a kind of way where tears are ready, but never actually there.
In the days since, we’ve been dealing. It’s not easy to readjust after something like this happens to someone you love. You want to have fun and be happy, but it feels so wrong. We went out Saturday night, but didn’t even last an hour before we felt like we had to come home. The problem is that I just want to fix it. We all really, really want to fix it. I want there to be a way where I can just change everything so that she never has to feel any of this ever again. We miss our friend deeply, and we will continue to miss her until she comes back. When she returns, we’ll have to readjust again to become whatever she needs us to be. Or maybe she’ll just need us. We can do that, I think—just simply be there for her. But to be honest, I don’t know what to expect for the coming weeks. I guess it’s just one of those things where you have to find comfort in that whole “all in this together” idea. We’re working through this together, and hopefully that’s all that we need.