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  • Susmita

Envy, COVID, and Rich Conservative White Kids

(As I wrote my last post, I started thinking of something I wrote about back in September 2021. For some context, it was the beginning of fall semester and it was the first time I came back to school after a break that I took)

I think that the culture shock I have been experiencing since coming back to school along with my general pandemic angst had calmed since I moved out of my parent's house. I think it's important to write about this because even though the emotional intensity isn't there anymore, I want to also make sure I don't have any baggage left over either.

When it comes to dealing with the pandemic, because of the place I go to school, I'm surrounded by rich conservative white kids who don't really care about the pandemic (since they are the main ones not being affected by it) and basically treat it as a minor inconvenience. I guess this time would have been easier if I decided to go elsewhere for my education because I could easily distance myself from their experiences. I think the main thing at play here is how Contrapoints talks about the proximity effect as it relates to envy. Basically, we are more likely to envy people we are close to or people we have resemblance to because those people represent a version of us, a version of what could have been if the circumstances were right. With these rich conservative white kids, not only do I have more geographical proximity to them where I'm constantly being reminded on how they don't give af about the pandemic, but also there is this sense of proximity that comes from all of us going to the same school. In my little lizard brain, it doesn't matter that we are all on different playing fields and that it would be unfair for me to compare myself to them. Optically, we are in the same playing field.

I'm at the point where I basically have to avoid social media. Every time I open it I just get reminded on how in these last couple years, everyone has still been living fairly normal lives and have been going about their lives with little to no disruption. They are reaching milestones, both personal and professional, as if the pandemic never happened. Meanwhile, the opposite has been happening to me where my world was turned upside down, I had a health crisis, I was pushed into a toxic household, and I have financial issues due to this whole thing. I didn't get the opportunity to get out and live a normal life.

Normally, it would just end there but in this case I do see more resentment bubbling up with this attitude of "if I had to put my life on pause to deal with this stupid thing and I couldn't live a normal life, then no one should be able to live a normal life." And I think part of it is because if people just stayed their ass at home and got vaccinated like they were supposed to, then maybe we wouldn't have a continuation of this situation now would we.

Not only do I envy their lack of awareness and their selfishness in this whole situation but also the privilege they have to be unaware and selfish. I can't even go out to a small gathering of people without feeling like a terrible person. Crowds and parties are out of question and are to an extent anxiety inducing. I guess technically I could have started going out since April or so but again, it's a whole moral and survival conflict. Also, I remember back in February and March of this year I would see people on social media posting about parties, going out, and travelling without masks. And it's like.... I know damn well that these people weren't vaccinated because my family and I tried to get the vaccine as early as possible and we didn't get it until April. But then again, the vaccine really doesn't matter to a lot of people there. I also have classes with some of them and I have had to listen to a few anti-vax rants. I also ran into a protest near my school of a bunch of anti-vax people a couple weeks ago with people holding up signs of how Fauci is a fraud, how vaccines don't work, and how this is all tyranny. So that was fun to deal with smh.

I'm also still scared of catching something and then giving it to my parents. That's another thing, my parents are on the older end so I have to be extra cautious and responsible. Rich conservatives aside, I know a lot of people who are my age and who have really young parents (as in their parents had them in their teens and now their parents are still in their mid-late 30s) and they had the opportunity to be much more carefree about this whole thing because the stakes are much lower for them. When it comes to my parents however, if one of them catches COVID, they are basically done for. And it's just wild to me that a lot of these people can take road trips and go to social gatherings (not shaming them, I'm pretty sure they are following guidelines) because it's like I'm living in a different reality.

I wish I had the privilege of being unaware. I guess part of me does see these rich conservative white kids as an alternate version of myself, an alternate version that doesn't have a care in the world and is still living their best life as if nothing happened. It makes me think of what my life would've looked like in the last year and a half had the pandemic never occurred. Sure I'm not thinking of yacht party, but I am thinking about finding a close group of friends, growing socially, studying abroad, and having my career figured out for the most part. I'm thinking about saving time from not dealing with the trauma that my home situation, my academic situation, and my health situation. There is a part of me that thinks of the person I saw myself about to become back in February 2020 and then that being cut short.

There is a part of me that wishes I was selfish enough to make the choice to not live with my parents this time last year. I'm convinced that was one of the main components for me to basically lose my mind. My whole thought process for that decision was that I need to be responsible and safe and so I should stay at home instead of returning back to campus. Sure living with my parents is mentally draining, but it's better than putting other people at risk and dealing with the constant anxiety of being on campus without the vaccine. Plus, my parent's probably couldn't deal with the mental stress of me being on campus with all of this going on. I could also put them in danger. I prioritized all of this in exchange of my mental wellbeing. And I feel like I didn't get much in return by making the right decision. If anything, I got punished for it. While I have since worked through the shame and the resentment I had towards myself for making this decision due to the outcomes, I still have a degree of resentment towards people who deny this whole situation and act as if the pandemic is a hoax. In a way, it's almost as if their ignorance and denial of the situation is like a denial of my pain and my experiences.

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