Self-Isolation and Self-Discovery:Giving the Similarities Between Care and Harm a Positive Spin.

If my goal is to inform you, I would be wasting all of our time telling you this semester has been different. Not different like the transition from freshman fall to freshman spring, when you gain the rejuvenating feeling of the returning to a place you now know as home. Not different like the transition (I could only assume) from senior fall to senior spring, when you have the bittersweet combination of gratitude and anxiety. These “differents” are expected and a right of passage of the life we have all selected as college students. This different was not expected, it was not welcomed, and it was not anything that we accepted as a “part of life.” This was a forced different; one that tested our will-power, our discipline, our self-awareness, and our perspectives. I, for one, learned a lot about myself, and used the forum posts (that I did not disappear from) as an outlet to share these findings with all of you. While the tone was seemingly pessimistic and self-deprecating, as Dr. McCoy noted with a comment “How can I support you in being less mean to yourself?” on our eighth forum post, the message was more my attempt at noticing, sharing, and hopefully providing an outlet of solidarity for my peers. In a time that is full of differents, any opportunity to find something that is the same would serve as a great life preserver.

In the beginning of the semester, as we started the trilogy, we meet Lilith as she reviews her routine in the empty room. I understood her life of repetition, days blending, and losing track of time, but I had no sources to allow me to empathize with her. Shortly after this, I became a contact of COVID-19 and immediately understood. Some days, a 24-hour day felt like five times that; other days, 24 hours felt like two. I tried to keep busy, but some days it just did not seem worth it. When there is no end in sight (two weeks feels like quite a while when you are stuck in one room), any kind of work you put in to benefit your future self, such as exercise, homework, or even proper diet feel like a waste of your energy if you will seemingly never reap the benefits of that work. Some days, motivation is high enough to exercise, complete a few long projects, do some work online, and clean the one room you can remain in. Other days, you feel defeated, lethargic, and unmotivated without seeing the purpose in this work you are doing. Of course, her time in isolation and wondering was far longer than the two-week period, but during that time I was able to reflect and draw a few more thoughtful connections between our modern day and the social situations within the trilogy. Unfortunately, the biggest thing I noticed was the similarities we shared for fear of the unknown.

The second child Lilith has within the trilogy, Jodahs, is the first mix between Oankali and human. For this unknown hybrid, Jodahs is exiled and cast out. The reason for this exile, and most exiles, is fear or anger. These negative sentiments breed fear within societies with the knowledge that exile is possible, and an option. While this caution is sometimes warranted, the fear of it is what drives the society, not the reason for it. Currently, we are in a time in which people live every day with the risk of being temporarily exiled if they contract COVID-19 or even come in contact with someone who has contracted the virus. Caution is obviously important, but fear is driving a majority of the population. This fear was able to be preyed upon by media and politicians to drive their agendas based on these emotions. This brings me back to our discussion of disinformation and harm, information and care, and more specifically the link that differentiates propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation. (Disinformation infographic). In a time that has so much varying information coming from varying sources with varying validity, the part of the aforementioned forum that speaks the most to me is about care. The lack of human connection in exile and isolation is detrimental to our health. With the knowledge that we could potentially be sent to isolation, whether in our homes or a hospital, it should be so that the available human connection (whether virtual or socially distanced) would be accepted with open arms and even sought after. Instead, at least from my noticing, there has been an overall lack of that genuine, positive human connection.

                This semester has been by far my hardest semester. I began this piece speaking of how different this semester has been for us. I, unfortunately, have taken the path of negligence, lethargy, and absence, and for that, to all of you, I apologize. Throughout my self check-ins, the hardest part was evaluating my interactions with my peers. Due to my absence and passive observation of the class, I did not provide any of you with the energy you deserved. Thank you to those of you who chose the path of discipline and hard work, I hope to once again join you there next semester. The entire semester, I have been trying to figure out why this semester has been so difficult, and only now, whilst concluding this piece, I have finally figured it out. My life, like many of our lives, is great. I am lucky enough to be in a healthy, productive, prosperous relationship with my partner, I have the unconditional love and support from my family, I am blessed with a healthy and able body to keep myself active, and I have truly been able to notice my own happiness and growth. When we were exiled from each other, told to keep to ourselves for the greater good, and to no longer see some of the people for whom we have the most love, major parts of this great life were taken from me.

Our second forum of the semester discussed the similarities in the etymologies care and harm share. As we read within the prompt: “Ward remarked ‘Care can exist as violence./Violence can exist as care’.” Until recently, I did not understand how this could be possible; how could you care for yourself to such a point that it could cause harm? I now, final understand. I care about my family, who I was unable to see for thanksgiving because of the fear of infecting them with the virus I had come into contact with; I care about my education, which had its best part, the human interaction through learning and growing, taken away this semester; I care about my friends, many of which I have not been able to see for months as a part of the responsibility we all share to limit our circles. Because of the amount of care through which I live my life, it becomes harmful when a good majority of it is taken from me through means out of my control. When these things were removed from my life, I chose to shut down and just barely crawl to the end of the semester. For this path, I am grateful, for I now know what I need to do to avoid this in the coming years. For this prompt, and this opportunity to explore my own emotions and thought processes with our literature and dialogue as the medium, I am further grateful, as it has helped me in discovering and thinkING about myself and my perspectives with a new light of optimism and hope. This different semester has significantly added, and somewhat overwritten, my original text. With the require time, effort, and care, I hope that my palimpsest will soon reveal the traces of my old writing once again.

Everything follows a pattern, even in the craziest of times.

Perhaps it is egocentric, or simply lazy, but the quotations immediately got me thinking about my self and my own life currently. In the beginning of the semester, I felt confident and prepared to overcome the changes COVID-19 has created. Online classes, limited social interactions, and most places closed down would be no problem for a naive junior excited to be an adult and live off-campus in a house of his own for the first time! This was the case for approximately a week or two. Then, I dropped off and reverted back to my old habits. My work ethic is still a tremendous work in progress. In High School, I was smart enough to avoid being a good student. Only in college, when the work load became harder and more abundant and my motivation did not change did I realize something needed to be fixed. Unfortunately, this is what I revert back to when I get behind, and where I am currently at during this time.

“Forget talent. If you have it, fine.” This portion of the Butler quote reminded me almost exactly of the version of myself that was previously mentioned. I was a naturally smart and perceptive kid, so I did not have to do the readings, the homework, the classwork, and my grades would not show any of that because I could figure most of the tests out. I had the talent, but I did not realize that I had to do something with it. Within the same quote, Butler says “A habit is more dependable than inspiration.” Alternately, this quote spoke to my current state, and the state I would like to achieve in the future. I am slowly building the habits that make a responsible student. As an education major, I think this is an incredibly important thing to accomplish. How could I go into a classroom and expect my students to put in hard work and dedication, if I never did that myself when I was in their position. These habits will also carry over to things far outside the education world and as a 20 year old, the habits I form now could arguably be the most important habits of my life. I am still young enough that I can make a change, but old enough to realize what changes need to be made. Because, I fully understand that bad habits can form just as easy (if not easier) as the good ones. I believe that we, as humans, live in patterns. As we saw in Dawn, Lilith could reproduce her “daily” routine with almost no effort due to the amount of times she was tasked with repeating it; she could even predict what would happen. Once she was finally free from her single room, it was difficult for Lilith to adapt to not being imprisoned. In our own, less severe way, the Corona virus has imprisoned all of us. Of course, we have the free will to leave our homes, but there is no denying that it has taken away our normal way of life. I have noticed two patterns within myself during this time. As simply as possible, there is a high and a low. My highs are great; I am motivated and ready to use this time of isolation to improve myself and come out of this period of semi-self-isolation as a better version of myself. This perspective of my attitude was the first three weeks of school. Then, and now, the lows are taking over. I am going through the motions, doing what I have to do (and sometimes less) to make it through. Luckily, I have learned what these mentalities look like and have seen the patterns that they follow, so a new high is just around the corner.

“Learn and Run!” has been a recent mindset that I possessed long before reading this quote. Instead, I usually say “all of my friends are smarter than me.” I do not mean this to self-deprecate, as I have already stated, I am perhaps too smart (and humble!) for my own good. Rather, I say this with the same intentions as Butler. I see what my friends are doing. Friends who are personal trainers, computer scientists, medical and law students, and engineers all have pieces of information to share with me. Perhaps everything they share with me will not result in me being the worlds first muscular-doctor-lawyer-engineer-scientist, but instead they let me into their worlds. The second half of Butler’s quote “and Run,” is then up to me. Usually, I will run. Learning is one of my favorite activities, because everything has unknown sciences and reasoning behind it. A conductor does not simply wave their arms at an orchestra, but rather there are cues and messages with almost every movement. Observing, noticing, and (sorry for the plagiarism!) thinkING are far more important aspects of interaction than the favorite, speaking. Speaking only gets someone so far, and speaking is the easiest interaction to present yourself with whatever façade you chose to don or not don. When I am meeting someone for the first time, as much as I am listening to the words they are saying, I watch them; I observe them. How are they standing? Do they appear comfortable with themselves? What are they wearing? What stories do their physical appearances tell? I do not use these observations to manipulate of judge the person, but then I am comfortable and confident enough to properly speak with them. Now that I know about the person, I know how I can connect with them, how I can form a bond that I want to form. While I am not able to feel seeds growing in the ground, I do believe that these are also sensory receptions.

I have been noticing, observing, thinkING, most about myself. Not because, as much as this essay may beg to differ, I love to think about myself. Rather because if I do not understand what is happening within my own life, I cannot expect to understand what is happening elsewhere. I have a lot of growth to do. I know that the work is not too much, but I need to build the habits that I want to have in order to be the best version of myself. I have the talent and the potential and every other attribute that could go to waste if I continue in this low. Of course, lows are okay to have, we are all human. But actively trying to get out of these lows and improve myself has been the goal and will continue to be the goal. I have my intentions set and I know how to achieve them, now I need to run.