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Mental Health

Finding the Balance Between Safety and Freedom

There is no disputing the fact that we live in scary, tumultuous times. Every day brings news of the latest atrocity, to which most of us have become so numb that we have trouble differentiating one terrible event from another. No matter where you are from, the problems of the world are impossible to escape. Though I have never felt particularly unsafe on my campus, it is impossible to ignore the fact that, during my time at the U, three of my fellow students have lost their lives in tragic incidents of violence both on and off campus, while others have survived sexual assault. This is absolutely unacceptable and in this article I would like to focus on finding the balance between a necessary wariness of the world, and continuing to live.

It’s easy, particularly as a woman (especially one who is obsessed with true crime), to feel suffocated by the violent world we live in. For most of us the night is literally dark and filled with terrors; oddly shaped bushes or approaching footsteps are enough to set hearts racing. If you are angry about this, you are not alone. It is absolutely sickening that a “simple” night out often requires careful planning and thorough communication with friends to ensure that everyone makes it home safely.

I know from personal experience how this kind of worry combined with the constant stream of violence in the media can begin to tarnish your view of the world. It’s easy to fall into despair when considering the state of the world. Danger lurks around each corner, and even the most innocuous of actions can be subjected to intense scrutiny. This kind of mindset is not sustainable if you wish to maintain some semblance of sanity. It is in this area that I believe a balance between safety and living can be struck. Feminist writer Rebecca Solnit, wrote in her famous essay Men Explain Things to Me: “Despair is a form of certainty, certainty that the future will be a lot like the present or decline from it. Optimism is similarly confident about what will happen. Both are grounds for not acting. Hope can be the knowledge that reality doesn’t necessarily match our plans”. I find the first part of this quote to be particularly profound. As someone who is not terribly optimistic, I find it useful to remind myself that “Despair is a form of certainty”, which is not a helpful way to look at the world. I want to believe that we will one day live in a world that is more just and less violent, but achieving this goal will take the dedicated work of many. It is important to remember that many people are already working, and in many areas succeeding in making this goal a reality.

I cannot choose which precautions you will use when interacting with the world to keep yourself safe, but I can leave you with what I believe to be the most important method in finding a balance between wariness and living: be prepared for the bad, but also be open, and look for the good. There are many situations that require you to be cautious, but try to not let this cloud your view of the entire world, because, if you look hard enough, you will be able to find those who are working to make the world a better place.


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