Hello fellow learners! This is going to be a post that is a little bit out of the norm for this publication, but will perhaps become more normal depending on how you all feel about it.
I have stated in posts before that the idea for The Learning Curve came to me while I was still in my undergraduate courses at Indiana University. As a journalism student, I was always up-to-speed with current events which, at the time, consisted of political biases, the death of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter Protests, Blue Lives Matter Protests, coronavirus outbreaks, ballot recounts…need I continue?
Amidst all of the chaos in the world, I frequently found myself wishing news platforms and publications would zoom in on the average person—the people being directly affected, but not making headlines. I wondered what it felt like to be a black mother, how to cope with the loss of a parent to COVID-19; I wondered how many police were quitting, and how many people were choosing to become one?
The list goes on and on. I knew that there were certain standards for journalists, according to my professors and textbooks, but I knew there was a certain piece of humanity missing that I longed for, and could not help but believe others longed for it too.
I realized that there needed to be a place for people from all walks of life to come to share their individual stories and to be heard by one another free of bias and judgment—just the raw, honest truth.
It is no secret that I am a white individual, and one that can openly admit has been blessed with multiple luxuries so many others lack. This is white privilege, and I can acknowledge that. What inspired The Learning Curve, though, is taking that privilege and giving it to all of you—to anyone and everyone I can reach, with the goal of creating a more honest and accepting world.
Today, though, I sat down to write and simply could not. Well, at least not what I initially intended to write about. The truth is, another flaw in modern journalism is that the reporters serve the public, but the public so rarely see and hear from the reporters personally. How can we trust someone so fully if we cannot connect with them on a human level? My number one pet peeve, as a journalist, is the term “fake news.” Not politically, but because I worked so hard through school and into my career and know so many others who did as well. The term feels like a slap in the face after all the long hours we put into reporting a story.
What I am about to do, will hopefully free my name of “fake news,” but most importantly, allow you to realize I am human too. I am not a robot behind a screen word-vomiting useless information to you.
My intention is simply to say this: you can trust the words you read on my page.
I cannot write what I intended to write about today because last night I lost someone incredibly close to me. Due to respect to the family, I am keeping his name confidential at the time—though I do hope to write a longer article in his honor soon.
My November 15, 2021, started at 5 a.m. in Indianapolis as I caught a ride to the airport for my 6:45 a.m. flight back to my home in Jacksonville, Florida. Security lines were long and I missed the flight. Frantically, I called my dad, who is an experienced traveler, and he helped me book a new flight for 9:40 a.m.
I attempted to nap at the airport, but my anxiety reminded me I could potentially sleep through the boarding call, and I could not afford to miss another flight. I landed in Orlando (the cheaper option for my trip) and had a two-hour drive home. The point? I was exhausted.
I finally made it back, unpacked, and flopped down in my bed for a nap. When I woke, I had a missed call from a friend that I had not spoken to in a while—she is the former niece of the man who died (he and his wife divorced years back). I thought it was strange of her to call out of the blue instead of sending a text, so I texted to make sure she meant to call me.
The next thing I knew, she was telling me he was dead. I knew he had been struggling for a long time with a list of medical issues. He had come close to dying a couple times recently as well. Though, when we last spoke, he seemed upbeat and performing well in physical therapy. Then, it hit me.
My friend had called to tell me; not my dad. This man was his best friend and I knew in my gut I was about to be the one who told him of his passing.
I experienced the strangest sensation in my body during that phone call. Each time I tried to get the words out of my mouth, my entire body would shake harder and harder until finally all I said was, “he’s dead.”
The rest of the situation unfolded as you would expect—phone calls to family members, questions on how and where were being answered, tears and silence.
Isn’t it funny that death is an inevitable part of life, though, nobody ever has the right words to respond to it?
Up until now, I have not disclosed my age to followers or subscribers. I feared that it would deter people away from this site that I want so badly to work out as my career. A recent conversation made me realize that my age is my strength right now because nobody is asking how we are doing.
I am 22-years-old. My last year and a half of college were robbed by COVID-19, and my graduation ceremony was presented to me through a shaky zoom signal. Girls my age were trying to go to bars in the midst of the #MeToo movement. Gays in my generation have seen enormous hate, and enormous acceptance, but both at such developmental parts of their lives. Everyone in my generation watched one of the most influential presidential races unfold, and it was only their first or second time legally being allowed to vote.
To me, I cannot help but think these circumstances and lack of conversation about these issues in an open and honest way, are inevitably going to lead to some sort of trauma or triggers for us.
I lost a very influential person in my life last night, and I did not cry. In the role of a child, I had to tell my father his best friend died, and I immediately felt sick. I was talking with a friend today and confessed to her that a full 24-hours have passed since I received news of his death, and I still have not cried. In fact, I have carried on my days as normal. I told her I felt a strange guilt over this sensation.
“I’ve heard about that but have never experienced it myself,” she said. “I don’t know if there is just a one-way route to grief; I think some people are like that, but nobody ever talks about it.”
I explained to her then that I feel our generation is always going to have a difficult time processing the emotions of death because we watched a large majority of the country lose the fight to COVID-19, and instead of understanding what that meant, we were forced to view it politically.
“Very good point,” she said. “We have been desensitized.”
I wrap this article up by saying, I do not have the answers to this problem. I have a feeling; the trauma of the pandemic is still so recent that we may not have the answers for a while—though I hope that is false. I do know that people of all ages have experienced increased depression and anxiety. I do know that despite your political beliefs, we are all able to acknowledge the lives lost to the virus. And, I ask you this—did you cry? When someone dies now, even from natural causes, do you cry?
From human to human, I ask you these questions because they are such important conversations to have that will rarely make a headline, but would help us all on a personal level.
My dear friend and role model, may you rest in absolute peace. I miss you already, and will always love you dearly.