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The Pandemic Letters: An Introduction

Blogging: a radical act of self-actualization, or a masturbatory exploration of one’s own mind? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure myself. In my position as co-editor of The River for the fall 2020 semester, I have thus far shied away from the task at hand: to write. A bit absurd, isn’t it, a Creative Writing major who is afraid to share her thoughts in written form? Perhaps a little backstory might help unpack my hesitation. You see, I am a fairly non-traditional student at this juncture, in what is undoubtedly an unprecedented time in academia and the world at large. I started my undergrad studies at UMF in 2011, and met the majority of degree requirements before dropping out to abscond to South America. I stopped writing, stopped reading, abandoned half-finished pieces like ghostly lovers. It took one heartbreak, two jobs, three moves, and four years for me to finally return to my studies, armed with a personal mantra: Hindsight is 20/20. I would chuckle to myself often at the pun, imagining the idiomatic phrase emblazoned on my graduation cap as I marched amongst a sea of young, enthusiastic strangers. 2020: a new year, a new decade, a new opportunity to fulfill goals set long before. A chance to try again, to write again. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, absolutely everything.

I won’t get into it all now (and spoil the fun of future posts?!), but as any reader would know, 2020 has been, in a word, hellacious. There have been universal struggles, of course; but also more personal and intimate ones, as we have all reckoned with the ways in which a global pandemic, nationwide upheaval, and a historic election cycle have impacted us. There is a constant tension between acceptance of the unknown, and the maddening fight for stability and normalcy. All at once survival seems so pressing and yet, somehow, hopelessly out of our hands. So why, and how, in the midst of it all, should writing a blog be anywhere in my list of priorities? Well, aside from the fact that it is the one thing that stands between me and officially concluding my undergraduate studies, journaling during historic times allows for each of our voices to be a part of something much greater. My perspective, though limited, tells a story and infuses humanity into what will someday be a history lesson, a multiple choice question, a long  list of figures and forgotten dead. How often do we have the opportunity to know that we are living history? How will we use that time, how will we choose to remember and be remembered? 

In examining letters and diaries written during the 1918 pandemic (keep an eye out for more on that in an upcoming post) I was amazed to find an odd blend of the mundane and the macabre; somewhere between the kneading of bread and the burying of the dead there is a rhythm to life as we find it now. I hope you’ll join me as I use this space to sift through the past, reflect on the present, and maybe, just maybe, rediscover myself as a writer along the way.

Welcome to The Pandemic Letters.

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