a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications
by Maya Doig-Acuña
There are many mornings here when I wake up and wonder if I can or should try to make it out of bed. The day has barely started, yet I feel exhausted by its possibility, by the weight of its stresses and pains: the essays I must finish, the class in which I am the only brown face and in which I must fight the constant doubt with which racism has taught me to prick myself, the anxious buzzing in a crowded dining hall, the marrow-deep loneliness that sometimes sinks into me by midnight. I know that I am not alone in these feelings, in the depression and anxiety that mark the college experiences of so many here at Middlebury (and at other schools). In the wake of Nathan Alexander’s death two weeks ago, I think most of us have realized this—that too many of us are hurting, that emotional pain has real consequences—and that we must do more to take care of ourselves and of each other.
There are some structures in place here that are meant to facilitate that caretaking: Parton Counseling Center, our Commons Deans, our Res Life teams. We also have student efforts that attempt to fill this role: cultural organizations, which have often given me some sense of home, most recently, the Resilience Project, and perhaps for many athletes, sports teams. Each of these spaces and groups, I believe, has been essential for lots of people. However, they also exist in a culture that is still overwhelmingly fast-paced, competitive, exclusive, homogenous, and isolating for students with marginalized identities. So I am asking for more—I am asking for a sort of caretaking that is deeper and richer, that is built into our school culture and into the ways in which we choose to interact with one another everyday.
We need a counseling center that is awarded greater resources and that hires a diverse team of counselors who have been trained in guiding students of color, queer students, students with disabilities, and students who have experienced trauma. We need an administration that will not pressure us to take time off when we are depressed or suicidal or scared, without taking into account whether our homes are safe for us, whether they will allow us to get better. We need all professors to understand that some mornings we cannot get out of bed, and that this is just as worthy a reason for missing class as the flu. We need friends that will look out for us, that will listen sometimes if we need to talk, that will affirm us when the only view we have of ourselves is muddy. And we need to try and be tender with ourselves, to pay attention to where it hurts, to open up space for healing.
In this time, we must consider how to make this community one in which our whole selves are welcomed and nourished, in which our mental and/or spiritual health is also prioritized. I hope that we can make room here at Middlebury for this to happen. I hope that we will learn to truly take care. Take care in the way that perhaps many of our mothers or fathers or other loved ones do when we are sick—with gentle hands, soft voices, tea & honey, a spread of Vick’s VapoRub across our chests—in a way that is thoughtful and a practice of love. In a way that helps us survive.