Strength in Solidarity
In light of the recent tragedy that has struck our community, I know we’ve all been thinking and feeling a lot. I have seen many beautiful acts of solidarity to honor and remember the lives we lost, but I have also observed that everyone grieves differently. We all must find a way to cope with what has happened, and rebuild ourselves from it. This might be done through thinking deeply, spending time with close friends and family, rallying together for a cause, or even going on a nice long run to settle the mind. For me, the best way to work through all of these emotions is to write. I thought I’d share these thoughts in the hopes that someone out there could benefit from reading them, if only just by knowing that although we’re all vulnerable and emotional, we’re all together.
My Grandma is in the market for a new home; this last week I went with her to visit a few of the houses she was interested in. While I noticed what now seem like insignificant details like existing wall paper and intricate designs on retro bathroom sinks, my grandma’s observations shocked me into an unbreachable reality: “I’ll still be able to get up the stairs for ten more years;” “When grandpa is gone this house will be a bit big;” “It will be harder for you to sell this house when you move me into a home.” My grandma is fifty years older than I am, and somewhere in those fifty years after 21, she came to a grand acceptance of mortality.
On Friday, the youth of Isla Vista faced the same challenge. Even though I was safe from the gunshots, my life has never felt so threatened–I have never felt so hunted. What scares me is the inescapable quality of the unpredictable: the inches of chance that saved my friends’ lives and the inexplicable fate that took me out of town. I don’t know why I wasn’t there, and I don’t know why I feel guilty for it. I don’t know why I didn’t cry at first, and I don’t know what thought finally misted my eyes. I do know I’ve cried two ways–hard, loud sobs alone in my car driving back into Isla Vista because the nightmares I’ve had for years came true: because one of the scariest things I’ve ever imagined happened to multiple people that could have been me, or worse, one of the many people in this town I’ve grown to love. Heavy, deep sobs because someone’s mom worried about her daughter and her worst fears proved true. Tears for the fear my parents have felt everyday since I was born, and tears for realizing the potential for that fear in myself. These sobs cry out from the pain of experiencing the harshness of a reality I’ve only ever read about.
But throughout the last few days, these tears haven’t been the most common. My eyelids fill with the love and compassion I’ve seen–the hugs and simple messages, the gentleness in the air and the palpable appreciation for every moment. When I got home, there was a small tissue heart on my pillow. I recognized it from a festival I went to with my roommate; thousands of them had rained down from the sky at the end of the set, painting the field red. She said she found it in her bag and it made her smile, so she left it for me. The smallest gestures aren’t just enough, they’re everything. They inspire these grand emotions, and remind me that even though, in the face of this tragedy, I may feel small and insignificant–like a thin tissue heart drifting aimlessly through the air–I can matter. And when 20,000 tissue hearts filled Harder Stadium on Tuesday, I realized the profundity each of us holds in our capacity to come together.
We are all here, together. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than what has come of this tragedy. I feel entirely blessed. While I’ve always been aware of my fear of the unknown, no assurance or knowledge has ever given me the strength I feel from the powerful sympathy of the beautiful people in Isla Vista.
“It would be a poor result of all our anguish and our wrestling if we won nothing but our old selves at the end of it— if we could return to the same blind loves, the same self– confident blame, the same light thoughts of human suffering, the same frivolous gossip over blighted human lives, the same feeble sense of that Unknown towards which we have sent forth irrepressible cries in our loneliness. Let us rather be thankful that our sorrow lives in us as an indestructible force, only changing its form, as forces do, and passing from pain into sympathy—the one poor word which includes all our best insight and our best love.” –George Eliot