I think a lot about how easily tempted I was. A letter, an envelope, a particularly melodramatic delivery system, and all arguments, statistics, and Crimson exposés vanished from memory. I was a little disappointed in myself, but mostly, I was confused. I consider myself a relatively secure person. I like my life here, sans final clubs. How could I hate everything about what they are and what they represent, yet still be tempted?
This is how, in the early phases of the pandemic, I stumble upon the productivity side of YouTube. Over the last seven months, I have somehow found myself spending more time watching videos that tell me how to optimize my life — how to take notes, stack habits, sleep better, focus on work — than ever before.
I didn’t expect the almost-de-feathered chickens Brent slapped onto my table to smell so much like the raw chicken you’d buy in a grocery store, given that I’d seen these bodies clucking and walking around only minutes earlier. The transition from “chicken” to “poultry” was startlingly swift.
But sometimes I wonder, if I’d carried out my summer as planned, if I’d done my internship and went back to Harvard, would I ever have had these thoughts? Would I have realized that journalism wasn’t the field for me? Would I have committed to changing concentrations? Would I have mustered the gusto to commit to an even less employable career path? I can’t help but think the answer would be no.
When I left home for the first time, I tried to imagine what it would be like for my younger sister. The bedroom down the hall is suddenly quiet. A pair of running shoes rests by the front door, unmoved. Drives to school, once hastened by Taylor Swift’s entire discography, feel strangely quiet without company. But the truth is, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t comprehend what it meant to be the one left behind — until now.
There are two definitions for the word “pith.” The first is the spongy white tissue that sits under the rind of a citrus fruit, coming from the archaic descriptor for spinal marrow. The second is simply the essence of something, its true meaning or feeling. I’ve found that it is easy to connect the two definitions, for the best way to describe the pith of my time in quarantine is a deep set, bitter sadness.
So I call her double-mother, and for life I owe her twofold, or more. My debt to her is pleated infinitely, like the skirts of the floral chair in her living room. When I was little, I’d hide beneath the wooden coffee table and play with her orange and blue Dala horses, the clacking of their lacquered legs muffled by the cream carpet.