What We Get Used To

By: Ellie Greenberger 

I read a line this week from Tobias Wolff’s story Next Door that says “It’s awful, what we get used to.” Over the years, I have found myself used to things that I didn’t think possible.

I called my mom on the phone two weeks ago. I was driving in the middle of nowhere just planning on calling her to talk, not about anything in particular just to talk.


My mom answered the phone with, “I’m safe.” I was immediately confused.

“What?” I responded

“That’s why you were calling,” she said. “Wasn’t it?”

“I was just calling,” I said. “What’s going on?”

“You didn’t hear,” she said.

“Hear what?” I said. “I have been in the car all morning. I haven’t been checking my phone.”

“There was a shooting,” she said. “Just a couple of blocks from the house, at the Tree of Life synagogue. We have been on lockdown all morning. The police won’t let us leave. It is really freaking your sister out.”

My sister is eight. I started to cry on the phone.

“I’m sorry,” my mom said. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“No,” I said. “I want to know.”

“I have to go,” she said. “We are working on coordinating and reaching out to everyone at work.”

“Love you”

“Love you too”


I got off the phone and finished crying. I was slightly upset with my self, disgusted that proximity made me care more than humanity. Yes, hearing about different shootings had horrified me in the past, but it was sympathy that I felt. I felt bad for those people. Yet, it was so abstract to me, so unreal, like the cliche idea of dying when you are young. It was something so easy to know but not to comprehend. I can’t even begin to understand what the victims and the families experience and my heart goes out to each one of them.

Its one of those things though. The things that people get used to- maybe not used to but at least numb too. I was one of those people. In the wake of the continuing shootings it seems there are more people that are used to it too.

This isn’t a call for political action or any action though I do think that something needs to change. But instead this is a call for self reflection.

“What awful things am I used to?”