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Ask Aroog is an advice column for University of Kansas students to ask columnist Aroog Khaliq for advice on love, relationships and life.


Dear Aroog,

I am a person who loves control. And, I think, prior to six months ago, I’d convinced myself I somehow had control of this world. My actions meant something; little by little my own choices and my peers' choices could do good. 

However, since the pandemic, the protests and the rest of the shit storm that is 2020 — I just feel hopeless. How do we move on? How do we feel hope? How do we keep fighting? I can march, I can donate, and I can do everything that needs to be done. But how do I nourish my soul? 

How do I get out of bed in the morning and pretend like any of this matters?


Your Most Privileged Reader

Dear Privileged Reader,

Your letter speaks to the existential dread that suffocates us all among this time of unrest. You can blame the pandemic, you can blame social ills lined up like dominoes to lead us here, but you cannot let this drawn-out tragedy rob you of your agency. In a way, you were right six months ago, and you are right now: you have control over this world, and you also lack control over this world. The key is controlling the magnification of this statement.

The world you inhabit, dear reader, fits neatly within the palm of your free will. You can TikTok DIY your way to an entirely new aesthetic. You can go vegan or start eating meat again. You can watch a single star in the night sky until it feels like it shines just for you. These are things you control, meaningful to you and your loved ones.

The larger world — our impossibly large world — does not fit so neatly within your palms.

You cannot put out the forest fires on the West Coast, or make everyone wear masks and social distance, or reimagine carcerality. You can do your part, whether that involves advocacy or service or cajoling someone into staring the brutal facts of life dead-on like you do. By doing what needs to be done, you are still fighting, and you are helping the world turn slowly onward.

To nourish your soul, to keep the flame of hope alive within you, you have to do something harder. You have to stop agonizing over the present, past and near future and look instead toward the possibility that exists in the rest of your life. The world’s tragedies are, even now, approaching their final acts.

If you fixate on them without remembering to read your own lines, how will your show go on?

There is so much to look forward to, even if our current circumstances obscure the path toward them. When I need to rekindle my hope, I like to imagine a single happy day in the future, from start to finish:

I sleep in and decide to make crepes when I wake up; a pair of little hands help me with the stirring. It is snowing outside, and after brunch we go outside and enjoy the chill, with lots of running indoors to find a carrot and some buttons for our Frosty the Snowman. When we come back in, there is hot chocolate waiting, accompanied by a viewing of "The Princess Bride." The rest of the day is not so eventful, but the satisfaction lulls us to sleep before we can finish reading aloud "Goodnight, Moon."

Of course, daydreaming does not seem like a very serious or mature way out of such despair. If that bothers you, simply write the vision down and call it “journaling about your goals.”

A version of that imagined happiness lies within your grasp, YMPR. You just have to be brave enough to aspire to it against all odds. I believe in you.