525,600 minutes. Daylights and sunsets and midnights and cups of coffee. I’ve always found that Rent offers a beautiful melodic sampling of ways to conceptualize this fickle thing we call time. But the question, however harmonized, remains: how do you measure a year?
Thinking too long on this subject brings a heavy lump to my throat. It’s been one year. We’ve lost so much and so fast. Tearing apart businesses, families, and entire communities, the pandemic has stripped us of so much of that closeness our society once had: a handshake over a new business agreement, a scorched smile over too hot coffee on the morning commute crammed in a subway car, a visit to see a loved one, a high five with a stranger over a touchdown at the sports bar. We were told to be, for an undetermined amount of time and with no warning, alone. And yet, the very science and expertise unto which we cling to guide us through this madness is debated like the merits of contemporary art by politicians. Some people believe this is a globally orchestrated hoax. Our democracy is still in the ICU. This year has, as a great mentor of mine says, given our entire society a CAT scan. It’s shown our inequities and injustices. It’s shown the unyielding power of the few and the overwhelming lack of access for the many.
One year ago, I sat with my friends in the Yellow Room eating my bagged lunch and talking about outfits for the upcoming Barristers Ball. The air was anxious while we awaited news from the administration. All the other schools in Boston had already formally announced temporary or indefinite closures. We wanted the same. We were all hoping for a short break and the silly virus scare provided a lovely opportunity. Our naivete was laughable. A friend in LSA regretfully informed me that Barristers was cancelled. But I wasn’t too upset because that afternoon was the Wendell F Grimes Moot Court Competition Final, so I just focused on that. My teammate and I were defeated in the semi-finals, so I was hopeful for a robust and exciting final round. Before oral arguments began, Dean Rougeau somewhat comically announced (to the extent I can remember his exact wording) “You may receive notice during this event about the school from the administration. I am telling you that the reception following this competition will take place as scheduled. Thank you.” We all smiled. Surely this circus was unnecessary.
Looking back on that day now, I suppose I am grateful for those few fleeting moments when all of this felt like more of an adventure than a nightmare. One year in, we are all changed. We are fewer in numbers and exhausted. Our fear of each other’s breath has only exacerbated a growing division in our society. I often think Boston and the other big “liberal” cities forget that other people exist in America. And over the last year, no one has been able to sit and talk and come together to break bread. It’s been a turbulent, unending trauma for everyone in some way.
BC Law, for its part, has tried its best. I won’t say everything going on has been perfect, but we’ve been trying. So many people have been trying to serve our community while still taking care of themselves. Professors sit at their desks, never standing up, for hours on zoom, answering call after call. They respond to emails at 2 am on a Sunday. The administration has somewhat successfully maintained an in-person campus experience for those who wish to go. The rest of us have continued online, generally uninterrupted, though collectively navigating e-law school is not without its laughs. The Law Student Association continues to meet and conduct events, as do all the student organizations. OCI happened. The bar exam has now been administered twice. Students have braved the cold to sit and talk with each other outside at a safe distance in the frigid New England winter. Through all the hiccups, time somehow marches on.
Even writing this piece shows the profound non-effect the pandemic has had on my life compared to the billions of people around the world suffering tidal wave after tidal wave of economic or health crises. That knowledge of my situational luck this past year is powerful. Some days it makes me feel guilty. Most days I choose to take that knowledge and exist not in guilt but in gratitude. And you just rolled your eyes, because now I sound like Brene Brown and I have no business doling out such platitudes. You’re not wrong. But neither is my method for navigating this Brave New World.
Jean Koh Peters in Habit, Story, and Delight: Essential Tools for the Public Service Advocate explains that vicarious trauma occurs when you yourself do not experience a trauma, but in order to empathize with your clients on a human level, you have to internalize some of their trauma. She writes “Just as a great loss can shatter a survivor’s universe, exposure to the losses of many people, or a few people in an intense setting, can alter the universe of those who experience the victim’s loss with them.” We have all been exposed, by close proximity, personal experience, or collective news consumption to the losses of this past year. And that means that even someone like me, who is so abundantly lucky to even be writing this blog, is experiencing trauma.
Peters calls us to attention, and to action: “When our world threatens to devolve into an overwhelming preoccupation with the evils we most fervently oppose, we must constantly remind ourselves that life is more than the injustices we seek to eradicate.” She calls on us to not forget that “despite all odds, beauty and hope still flourish in the world.”
So, what does that have to do with this blog? With law school? With you, who has generously taken the time to keep reading this inordinately long think piece? I want this to serve as a reminder to us. The collective royal Us. I wanted to take this opportunity, in recognition of this passage of time, to say that we are still here. We are somehow, despite substantial evidence to the contrary, making it through. The sun continues to hang in the sky and feed the plants. The moon continues to govern the tides. And your heart, my heart, the heart of our collective body, continues to beat. We. Are. Still. Here. So despite everything, on this anniversary, I ask you to take a moment and try, as Peters would urge, to delight in that fact.
It may help make today, tomorrow, and the next day, just a little bit easier to hold.
Tatiana-Rose Becker is a third-year student at BC Law. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Jean Koh Peters, Habit, Story, Delight: Essential Tools for the Public Service Advocate, 7 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 17, 27 (2001)