I have had the honor of working together with Janet Rodrigues ’12 on the Community Council in her role as a member and now as co-chair. As my guest blogger this week, I asked her to share her views about some of the challenges students face on this campus. She has more than fulfilled this request by sharing a story about a difficult day in her life. I look forward to hearing your comments.
—Shirley M. Collado
I will not forget one of my most stressful days at Middlebury thus far (I hope I haven’t spoken too soon). I would like to share this day with you in order to get to something more important than a day in the life of little miss me.
I woke up early that day to campaign for student co-chair of Community Council, and I spent two hours riding my bike across campus chalking “Vote Janet for SCOCC” everywhere. I mean everywhere! Breathless, I arrived at class, and suddenly it began to pour.
Then, during class, the professor decided to address concerns regarding course material that some of us felt was exclusive in nature, reflecting primarily white, male worldviews. This had alienated the two students of color and others. Apparently, I had a lot to say on the topic, and by the time class was over, I realized that very few of my white colleagues sympathized or understood the alienation I described. (I think an element of unearned privilege makes it hard for some to understand or identify with my experience, and the difficulty I find bridging this gulf is frustrating for me.)
Then, I went off to a lecture on Mozambique, widely attended by aspiring Peace Corps volunteers. As I listened to the lecturer talk about my people, I wanted to explode because he was referring to us in “development jargon”—“change behavior,” make “progress,” as if we need to be “changed” by someone else. As I walked out of the talk, I screamed—in frustration over the injustice, alienation, and lack of control I felt.
Days like these—with seemingly small, subtle interactions—can chip away at us. We can become numb as a result, numb to our feelings and needs. For me, this day was filled with a series of events that I felt helpless over. It was a day in which my community deeply affected me. This was the day I realized I was living in depression and that I needed to address it.
I will not share how my depression manifested, but I would like to share what I learned about how to get through it. This day, I realized what I truly needed from my Middlebury community and from my communities beyond Middlebury. Above all, friends and community are the most important healers.
We are under constant pressure to stay in control—in control of ourselves, our friendships, our academic careers, our futures. The list goes on. How we treat the members of our community and most importantly, ourselves, can get lost along the way. Just look at the prevalence of alcohol abuse and damage to campus buildings. This behavior does not prioritize self or community.
But to put our community and ourselves at the top of the priority list takes commitment, easily forgotten when life gets overwhelming. A few weeks ago, I was asked to step in as interim president of Student Government. I was quite content with the position I already had, Community Council co-chair, and I was enjoying garnering excitement around Community Council. When I was asked to put some of my responsibilities on hold in order to address the sudden absence of a president, I was ambivalent at first. And I almost missed the point: A student realized he could not carry his load, and he did something about it; he turned to the rest of us for help.
We have all been in a position where we realize we can no longer meet others’ expectations. During these times, our friends and our community must support us. If you have not come to such crossroads yet, it will happen. There will be inevitable times when we all must ask ourselves, “Can I actually be in total control?” NO!
This is where community comes in. We may not know when someone needs us. Thus, we must always tap into the pulse of our community and pay attention to each other. We need to recognize when others are feeling alienated and help vocalize their concerns. And if someone is bearing a heavy load, then we need to recognize that and try to help. We are all trustees of each other’s happiness.