This reflective letter to the CA community was also published in the C&E newsletter.
Dear CA Community,
I include in virtually all of my emails some wish for the recipient to be well, safe, and healthy. Maybe you have, too? When I write those words, I mean them. But in this time after a day’s worth of emails the meaning is lost. Maybe you’ve felt that, too? So, I try to change things up: “I hope you and yours are doing okay,” or “How are things in (insert any location),” and “Sending good energy your way.” They all fall flat.
What I mean to say is: Are you still the you I remember? If you changed, I would like to meet the new you.
This is what is core about the CA I love, that we are asked to be our full selves so that we can be seen, celebrated, and supported. At times, this feels impossible from behind a computer screen. What I realize is how precious community is, and the absence of it means the absence of part of me. This feels particularly strong when I’m out in public.
In the car I roll my sleeves down, stretch the blue nitrile gloves over my fingers, and adjust my facemask. I’m almost giddy when we walk towards the grocery store. Those jitters, as my sneakers hit the sidewalk, condense into droplets of anxiety. My glasses fog. I can’t touch my face, I remind myself. Each step brings more worry, pooling into puddles. The worry has plagued me since the first reports of anti-Asian violence. It feels like walking around in socks, which never ground me completely. I am both extremely fortunate to have not experienced overt racism and utterly defeated by the worry that I could be the target of fear and hate. What drains me most is the low-grade racism I experience in public places, which leads to low-grade anxiety that feels like walking through life in damp socks. Maybe you feel this, too?
I miss the uplifting jolt of smiling to others on the quad, the quick “hello” in the hallways, or the intangible security of the Chapel bell. I miss being seen as me, and I miss seeing you. I recall Wanda Holland Greene’s MLK Day talk on visibility. She shared, “Invisibility fails to acknowledge your presence and personhood. It’s why visibility, and naming people, is so important.”
What this pandemic has taught me (and continues to do so each day) is that those things I miss are not lost. I can find new ways to access them. I can see my students and be seen by others, and creatively make uplifting moments. In one video call for my class we wore hats with some interesting interpretations — in a pinch a pillow can be a hat. We all smiled, laughed, and I knew in that moment the group together created a spark of joy to combat what we all find in the world: a bizarre, uncertain moment unlike any other.
Cultivate joy. I ask all of us to find ways to cultivate joy, empathy, and warmth in our daily routines. In doing so we keep worry at bay. It is an essential quality of our community, leading to truly good things.
While in public places my worry may be present, I can still feel the good. Maybe you feel that, too?
Be well, be safe, be healthy (I mean it).
Peter Boskey ’08
Interim Director of Community and Equity