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Do the next right thing

| Monday, September 21, 2020

While I was living at home this summer, my mom convinced me to watch “Frozen 2” with her — which, for the record, is much better than the first “Frozen” movie. I could write an analysis of every song in the second one for the scene department, but I’ll spare you (for now) and limit myself to just one.

Near the end of the film, Anna, the younger sister of Elsa, is picking herself up after a loss and trying to move forward while combating an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. She sings, “It is all that I can to do the next right thing.”

This line has become a mantra for me as we’ve returned to campus and things have spiraled in and out of control. Throughout this summer and into the fall, it feels like everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Before we’ve even had time to process one loss, another knocks us down. We can’t control this, no matter how badly we want to. All we can do is the next right thing.

The world has not gone back to normal. The country is grieving a staggering loss of human life from COVID-19 and suffering widespread natural disasters, all while engaged in a political battle over human dignity as the end of an election year quickly approaches. The world and our perception of it has been continuously disrupted over the past six months, disruptions that can be easy to forget now that we’ve returned to the campus bubble of classes, work and activities. 

Notre Dame students are driven by a deep conviction to do good in the world. We like to think we have it all figured out, that we can fix everything that’s broken and protect ourselves and our communities from suffering. We stretch ourselves past our limits to fulfill the commitments we’ve made to the fullest extent. 

But oftentimes, we just can’t. And that’s okay.

When it all starts to feel like too much, don’t put pressure on yourself to overachieve. Just do the next right thing.

We can continue to protect ourselves and those around us by following health guidelines, even when we see others near and far flouting them. We can go to bed early instead of stressing over the essay that just won’t click. We can stop doomscrolling on Twitter and check in on our friends and roommates.

We’re not going to solve the world’s problems tonight or even tomorrow, but we can do a little good in the world every day by caring for ourselves and others. 

So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list or the day’s headlines, try not to look too far ahead. Take it one step at a time, put one foot in front of the other, and do the next right thing. That’s all we can ask of ourselves as we navigate this semester together.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Erin Fennessy

Erin is a biochemistry and French major from Madison, Wisconsin, who is also minoring in the Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She writes news, and takes and edits photos for The Observer.

Contact Erin