Coming To Terms With What We Lost

Photo Provided by Jacob Chavarria

Jacob Chavarria/Contributing Writer

This article is a part of PantherNow’s opinion section “Pandemic and Me”  series

Everyone has lost something during the pandemic. Whatever these fragments may be, they’re important parts of our identity – how we try to fit into humanity’s narrative. Seclusion has torn away at this, but in absence what they’re created from only becomes more apparent. For me, it was the loss of friendship.

I tend to think back on one memory in particular, my first time playing Dungeons & Dragons. It was Halloween and there was an excitement that the four of us, all in costume, shared when it came. I’d made the adventure we were about to go through, and we were ready to make it count. The rest of the night became an act of trying to match each other’s fun with equally bombastic storytelling as the story was constantly turned on its head, laughing and learning as we went along. We bounced off each other happily, and there was never a dull moment.

Seeing my writing create something meaningful in others, it’s moments like this that remain when I close my eyes and see how much my friends meant to me; I’d never been happier to be a part of something. It wasn’t the last time I saw them, but it was the most important.

I’ve hurt a lot of people in the last year of my life since then. I did so for many wrongheaded, misguided reasons, but mostly because I felt deeply disappointed with a life that couldn’t seem to find its right place in the world.

There are a million contradictions to why I pushed them away. To want to be understood and to want to be by one’s self are inherently different things, seemingly impossible to reconcile. But in this abyss, there was a balance I felt I had to find. It was an echo of the destructive person I’d allowed myself to be. I found a kindred spirit with Fredrick Nietzsche here, “I had no idea till this year how distrustful I am. Namely, of myself. My dealings with my fellows have ruined my dealings with myself . . .”

There was perhaps too much I shared with the solitary philosopher. In the pandemic, the rift became overwhelming; my disconnection from people was strained by the isolation to its breaking point. The human connection was lost when we couldn’t see each other. After the few times we did, the return to isolation erased any reminder of what it was like to be part of the world once again. I treated them less and less like friends as my own turmoil worsened until there was no more damage to be done.

Even as I made new relationships, it felt like I was falling further from it all. I held onto regret, nurtured it as my own – and it grew to become my life’s work. I embraced that cruelty alone, stuck in the confines of my room. It was the worst time to fight this battle, the most disheartening of hells. For much of the past year, I remained there.

Looking back on that time now, and reflecting on the affinity I’ve found for nature since then, I know my room was not what brought me here. My every interaction had lost the most important thing companionship needs to survive – empathy – and it’d been hollowed away before. Unwilling to reconnect to the world, or show it anything but anger; I knew this was how I felt towards myself too. A profound self-hatred was buried in my most traumatic failures, all of the paths I thought I’d strayed from. I couldn’t come to terms with that grief. Because of it, I could only shuttle in existential extremes.

Time with others and time alone, it illuminated a reality I hadn’t been able to shoulder in all the stoicism – to delve too deeply into togetherness, or loneliness, means to lose yourself in the struggle. My time with others was meaningful, but it veiled self-acceptance. And in my detachment, by choice and by circumstance, I would feel the toll it took on my identity. Life couldn’t exist in either, it needs to exist in contrast to both.

Melancholy, arrogance, guilt – these things make forgiveness a burden. It is the only honesty to be found in a life full of self-harm, and it’s so easy to shut the world away instead of seeing it through to the end. But in doing so, you lose the chance to become who you are. And if I’d taken anything from my early endearment of Nietzsche, it’s that there is no worse a misdeed. My best friends are gone, and we’ll forever be strangers. But the pain I caused them began within me first. I had to make amends with that.

Maybe it’s a vain task to try and gather the broken pieces of the pandemic like this. It’s difficult to believe the isolation could encompass so much, and there’s uncertainty in trying to reconcile with it in this way. But I have to believe these experiences meant something, and there is an undeniable strength in trying to find what that means for us.

Before returning to normalcy, we need to reconcile with what’s missing in the wake – in the way only we can. I’ve found writing to be part of my way there, unraveling things I never thought I’d be able to. It is a deeply personal part of me, as will be whatever comes out of the pandemic for everyone else. There’s no moment of vindication from that, only the start to peace with inner battles and whatever may come afterwards.

I think if there’s one real truth to be observed about selfhood, it was found by that solitary philosopher’s lost love Lou Salome long ago – “In that sense, our contemplation will not gain a new theoretical world picture but the picture of the human soul in all its greatness and sickliness.”

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The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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