Small flickers of light at the end of the tunnel

It's supposed to be April Fool's but to most of us, it's still just Day 16. Another day to try to work from home, respond to e-mails, rant against the government, get riled up because of the lack of action, foresight, urgency, and transparency, and feel helpless about it all. You know, the new normal.

But I suppose the Universe simply cannot let this day pass without a little side-serving of another plot twist.

I have just been admitted to the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, with a Presidential Scholarship! This is beyond unbelievable! UNH Franklin Pierce has a very competitive IP law program. It is currently ranked as Top 5 for IP and Technology Law by the US News and World Report. It is also consistently ranked as one of the best universities for IP all over the world. The fact that I was accepted at all - and granted a scholarship - is still something I cannot wrap my head around. Similar to LMU Loyola Law School, the financial aid was granted based on their evaluation of my personal essay and application. I feel so thrilled and overwhelmed!

I applied to this university because one of the partners in our office was a graduate of Franklin Pierce as well. When I looked into the credentials of the school, I was truly impressed and in awe. Add to the fact the tiny feeling of glee that the campus looked majestic and was what my teenage WASP-y New England dreams were made of.

Then, of course, it only took a few minutes of elation for reality to sink in. The coronavirus is still here. Worse, our government's incompetence and inaction revealed itself in the most damning of ways (well that's always been the case, but now was the worst possible time), and at the expense of many people's lives. The President continues to see violence as the solution to a virus. Government officials still perpetuate bureaucracy, red tape, and politics. Meanwhile, people are sick, people are hungry, people are dying. And the rest of us who want to help are limited by the quarantine. The frustration, the rage, the inability to actually do something - it's paralyzing.

Even after receiving my acceptance from LMU and up until today with this one from UNH, I still can't feel completely elated. This whole pandemic is unprecedented, at least in our time. It's impossible to isolate yourself from what is happening beyond the comforts of your home, in fact, it has made every conflict outside seem personal. It's so difficult to celebrate personal victories at a time like this. It's like in the bigger scheme of things, your wins don't matter. All these acceptance letters are of course great news, but all the uncertainty about the state of affairs in the country (and in other parts of the world) is making me feel like... this isn't deserved? Especially during a crisis. How do we convince ourselves to embrace these joys when other people are suffering?

It's so hard to see things from a big picture kind of perspective when the present is in such chaos. We feel helpless, powerless; all our work is rendered meaningless.

Incidentally, the other day, I came across an honest, moving essay by Sarah Miller on Longreads about dealing with our feelings in a world saddled with pandemic, climate change, divisiveness and other modern horrors. The reality we live in now seems too bleak, that it seems like our own personal feelings and aspirations have to be pushed aside:

You may have been told all your life that there were certain things you needed and certain things you needed to do, but it turns out that you don’t need most of those things and you don’t really need to do anything. In fact, nothing would be better for the world right now than if we all stopped trying to achieve things and said, “We no longer believe work will set us free, it is the opposite, in fact,” and behaved accordingly. There is nothing to achieve right now except to insist that the only achievement is caring for others, and not caring specially for family or friends, but in caring for every person as our family or friend.

To feel empathy for others is what's most crucial right now. It is primarily the lack of compassion that has brought our country to where it is right now, a sinking ship led by a drunk captain who drove right into an iceberg. It is the inability to see every single person as human, and therefore deserving of basic human rights and needs, that makes the rhetoric of violence resonate to so many. And it's infuriating.

But then, I also see the collective efforts of many others - health workers, front liners, universities, private corporations, regular citizens - who are all stepping up and making up for the government's indifference. Ordinary people are doing all that they can to help and loudly voicing out their dissent. And it's slowly working. It's nothing short of empowering. Despite the despair we all feel given the undeserved idolatry of some people towards the President, there's also consolation in the fact that there are more people becoming more dissatisfied and angry. Our righteous anger has now become loud enough to cause some changes. When rage fuels action, and action results in goodness, it becomes a little easier to still feel hopeful.

Susan Krawitz, attempts to find that flicker of hope amidst a pandemic, and stumbles upon it in nature. In what she believed was marshy soil on familiar land appeared something surprising: a sugar maple. Nature was thriving in mysterious ways.

There are no answers right now to anything, only questions on questions. But the forsythia is beginning to bloom, and house wrens are singing. It’s time for woodcocks to start mating in the marshy meadows, and comfortingly, they are. And I just found two [sugar maple] trees that live in my woodlot in defiance of all experts and odds.

Maybe these wins are my sugar maples. To borrow from Krawitz, I have lived on this land for 28 years and thought I knew every cranny of it.  I have survived on this country 28 years and when someone tells me "This is all you are, this is all you will be," I believed them. But I have lived on this earth for 28 years, and in that time, life has always made clear to me that nothing is ever permanent. Things can get really bad, but they can get really good too. We just have to hold on to that tiny bit of humanity left in us and try to do as much as we can, in order to keep on going.

I listen to the news, but I also listen to nature, and what it’s telling me right now is this: we can’t see everything there is to see. We don’t always know all we think we know. And the very last thing we should ever give up is the possibility of miracles.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. I just have to keep telling myself that. Today, I can be grateful for what lies ahead. But until then, I have to do my part in keeping whatever sanity left in me intact, and do as much good as I can, so everyone else - not just myself - can claim more victories n the future.

What choice do we have other than hope for the best? Hope that our personal triumphs anchor us and keep us afloat. These things, they are an affirmation of what we are capable of. They matter. They do, and they should, if only because they let us carry on, with hopefully the belief that we can bring more good into the world. Not just one day, but soon.

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