I have found that it is the unexpected phone calls, reminders to join the zoom call that I forgot about, apologies from friends who have been too busy finishing their dissertations to reply to my message that hold the greatest value to me in this moment.
People who cannot see me or how much I have or haven’t ticked off my to-do list, whose minds, in moments of quiet, wander to my wellbeing. These are acts kindness that I have no words for. In this time of great solitude, a virtual cheers or zoom quiz night is significant of so much more than social pleasantries, they are transcending signs of love.
It has been six weeks since I returned to England. Forty-two days in my parent’s house. The keys to my room in Germany were handed back a week ago despite feeling as though I will be returning ‘any day now’, because in some logical part of my brain, I know I won’t be.
Tuesday was the last of my therapy sessions. I started this a couple of months ago, after ending up in hospital with agonizing chest pain that doctors could not find a cause for. Ultimately it seemed stress may be the culprit and I figured it would be worth trying virtual therapy sessions with a professional recommended to me from my hometown. I will probably write about this in more depth in the future because it truly changed my life.
In the week, I had a zoom call with friends back in Germany. It was really lovely but also a bit surreal talking to people who were still going to the office every day or had been meeting up with a friend here and there, as is it legal. Germany seem to be leading Europe in starting to relax lockdown rules and I cannot wait for the same to happen in England.
On Sunday I spent the whole day finishing Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming. I remember precisely when reading became a luxury of time I could not afford. When my worth became so heavily dependent on academia and social perceptions that I stopped giving myself the quiet down time to just submerge myself in a world far from my own. It is funny now that in an era where all we have is time alone, I still feel guilty when I spend a day reading instead of working hard on something more tangible.
This book, however, I bought at Heathrow Airport on my way home after Christmas. It was an expensive hardback purchase, but totally worth it. It is so well written and it was so interesting to read about the life of a woman who grew up on the South side of Chicago and ended up in the White house.
Her career started at a law firm but over the years she has worked for numerous organisations to help her community. During her time in the White House she set up four campaigns, one of which I was surprised to recognise as the source of funding for a girl’s education project a friend of mine ran several years ago in Kurdistan. My friend is American born but now living in Germany and I remember her telling me about the work she did thanks to ‘Michelle Obama’s money’.
It was also wild to realise that when my mother was doing a fellowship at Chicago University in ‘97, Michelle Obama was also working there. Before I was born (and even a bit after), my mum did research on improving the lives of street children in Brazil and my dad was a human rights lawyer. They are now both teachers and have always instilled in me the value of doing work which you love.
Michelle’s autobiography echoed this notion as she worked hard to reduce childhood obesity in the US, to give military families a better quality of life, to ensure more girls have access to education and to encourage students to pursue higher education.
Her story touched me and I cried countless times as she recounted how her father’s health deteriorated due to MS, the story of her optimistic university friend dying of cancer at the age of twenty six and the loneliness she felt when her husband started to get more involved in politics and she was left juggling full time work and kids.
I cried when I read about the moment she realised Barack was the one and when she described their first dance after his inauguration. I literally sobbed at dinner with my parents after reading her account of the Sandy hooks shooting and how she could find no words to comfort the parents who had lost their six years olds in such a violent way.
Becoming is the story of a woman who worked every day of her life to be better, to give to her family and to her country. The stories of gun violence and children who live in fear made me think about my own privilege. How fortunate I am to have had access to a good education and been surrounded by people who have supported me both financially and emotionally.
While I have been on placement this year, I have thought a lot about where I’d like my career to head. This book has added to my thoughts and inspiration and I hope that one day I can do as Michelle has done and look back with pride.