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What is it like to be quarantined?

| Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I have no idea, but I did recently catch the campus equivalent of the bubonic plague and have been trapped in my cinderblock home for the past 58 hours. This flu has wrecked me despite how high my blood-OJ content is. Besides taking time to figure out just how many bugs are stuck in my lighting fixture, I’ve otherwise had about 57 hours to think. I’m a second semester senior, so that means I (erroneously) think I suddenly have tons of wisdom to share, even though I just learned that Café de Grasta even exists.

When I was little, I was never okay with getting sick and with the idea of not going to school — I was that kid that genuinely liked tests. I would fake being well just so my mom wouldn’t make me stay home. Back then, it came from a place of loving the crumpled but plentiful books at school and the always super fashionable plaid jumper look. Regardless of what I wanted, my mom would make me stay home because, “You can’t just go and throw up on people, Maggie.” During my experience in my room this week, I wonder if I sometimes still fake being well, but for less exciting reasons.

There’s no way for me to say this in a non-cliche manner: There is a standard of “Notre Dame perfection,” and while we would all like to say that we are not affected by that, we are all affected by it — me especially after four days of Dayquil-sponsored denial. I’m not speaking from a perfect grades or resume standpoint, but from the senior year perspective. Senior year is, for better or worse, your year of lasts (even if it is your first year going to Feve or taking a theology class), and therefore you want to do everything. On days like today, when I get sick from trying to do it all on no rest, I wonder what it would be like to live into just allowing my senior year — and my college career in general — to gently unfold. I cannot imagine that missing one weekend out or going to bed a little earlier than people living on the other side of the cinderblocks would cause a lot of regret. When it comes to the decisions in those small moments, I tend towards the “more” option, even when more makes me feel like less. In my sick (and overly dramatic) chamber, I’ve had one recurring question: What do I do when it feels like I’m doing too much and am completely drained?

This is the pathway to burnout, which I can guarantee is not what any of us would answer to the classic “What are you fighting for?” question. Even if your end goal is to achieve or serve as much as possible, how can you do that on no sleep? My point is that if we are not also fed, we are only going to be able to feed others for so long. If we are not gentle with ourselves, will we be able to be gentle with everyone else?

At our Catholic school, we are always talking about treating others as we want to be treated. This, while less Instagram-able than the Dome, is supposed to be the golden standard which we shape ourselves around. In theology classes, I have been consistently stumped when given this question: Can we know how to be kind to others and accepting of their weakness if we cannot do it for ourselves? We are our own closest case studies, lab experiments, hypotheses and stories.

It is very easy to say to a friend that obviously, yes, they should get enough sleep, they do not have to be so hard on themselves, and they deserve to be treated as they would have been when they were five years old, feverish, and clutching tightly to their favorite teddy bear. I’ve been the person saying this to others, and for a long time I thought I could say one thing and do the other for myself. Turns out this does not work, and does not actually make you a kinder person. In fact, it makes you unable to receive a flipped perspective on our golden rule: Treat yourself as you want to treat others.

Perhaps I am alone in this — I don’t really know what is in NyQuil Severe nor the side effects. At the same time, I did not give myself the flu — I got it from other students who are trying to do it all without giving themselves time to be a human who needs things like sleep, food, play and rest. I’m still learning this lesson, but it’s one I think others can learn earlier than me.

Underclassmen, take some advice from my bubble-girl experience: Never look too closely at your light fixture; never attempt to heal yourself via alchemy of DayQuill, NightQuill and a gallon of dining hall orange juice; and, you need sleep, and hard work. You need sharp pencils and dull Saturday afternoons doing absolutely nothing. Most importantly, you need to know it is okay to exist as a real person who needs to sleep and rest once in a while. It will not ruin your college experience — it will make you more deeply present to it.

Margaret Duncan


Feb. 27

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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