It has been a difficult and heartbreaking experience tracking how our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved over the course of these past two issues. In our previous issue, “Unspoken,” emotions ran high. Frustration, love, rage, and sorrow painted the pages. Our authors were ready to take action. We were ready to take action. “Unspoken” was published at a pivotal moment in history, the beginning of a pandemic crossing paths with nationwide protests and the beginnings of an election that would set the United States aflame.
Now, more than twelve months after the start of it all, our words are nearly unrecognizable. In the beginning, the changes to our world were almost exciting. The thought of virtual classes and new video-conferencing technologies inspired us to reflect on our world in new ways. But after a month of novelty, we find ourselves dreading the thought of rolling out of bed five minutes before class. We barely leave our seats. Every day we walk past chairs neatly stacked atop tables, past fenced-off seating areas, around plastic screens in the most inconvenient places. We have witnessed our demands, growing ever louder, go unheard. Many things have changed. But at the same time, almost nothing has changed.
We have witnessed justice brought to those who deserved it. But in the wake of it all, we find ourselves wondering if it really was justice after all if hundreds more walk free and thousands more suffer unduly. The road stretches longer and longer ahead of us.
But despite it all, we keep moving.
In this issue of Vanderbilt Lives, we feature student authors who have resolved to keep going, to continue having those tough conversations started in March. Perhaps unconsciously, we built this issue in conversation with “Unspoken.” Both issues deal with unprecedented challenges. The essays, while they represent an incredible diversity of perspectives and experiences, ultimately aim to develop a new vocabulary with which to view our changing world.
But where “Unspoken” looked wistfully around at a reality we were departing, we now see something we will never fully recover. Fittingly, “Weathering” attempts to come to terms with this departure. Passion gives way to calmer insight. We must figure out how to move forward.
This year was a tough year to write. In a semester we’d all prefer to spend studying and sleeping, these authors have committed to reflecting deeply on their circumstances. As has been said many times, in a world where history can be bent so easily, our responsibility is to make sure it’s being told by the right people, and by many different people.
We’d like to thank the Curb Center and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities for their continued generosity and support. We’d also like to thank all of our talented authors. Without all of your, Vanderbilt Lives would still just be a dream. Finally, we would like to thank the Vanderbilt Writing Studio, Health Professions Advisory Office, English Department, Law School, and Fellowships Office for your help in organizing our writing workshop, “Making it Personal.”
“Weathering” will be the last issue I release as editor-in-chief of Vanderbilt Lives. What started as a short personal essay in my freshman year became three years of fulfilling work and experiences I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully repay. I’ve worked with the best team of faculty mentors, authors, editors, and designers I could have asked for. I’m glad I found my place within these pages, and I look forward to seeing where this project will go.
Keep moving, Vanderbilt. We’ll see you on the other side.