I woke up yesterday morning, walking to my 7am class, the way most of us “millennials” do— trying to use coffee and twitter to drown out the noise of the snoring I could be doing, were I still in bed. But instead, I was walking through a cold building, dragging my feel to class, only to finally look down at the lit screen of my iPhone to find the news of Thousand Oaks staring back at me.
I wish I was surprised.
Because these things seem to happen, far too often, something I’m sure the few unlucky enough to go through this shooting and the Las Vegas shooting know only too well. So I sat through my first class of the day wondering about the trauma, the people, the lives…
How would the news twist this one?
Was the shooter white, would it become another not-so-subtle attack on race?
Would it be blamed solely on mental health, on the system?
What’s wrong with our system?
So I sat through class, nodding along and taking notes with hands only sort of conscious of what I was writing down. Then I left that class to go to another one, only this time, I was waiting for a text back.
We talked through the readings and went over what a writing center looks like, my leg bouncing and fingers constantly tugging at my pen for the next hour and a half; I was only halfway paying attention. Because it took me a minute to think about where Thousand Oaks is, to realize how close Borderline was to Pepperdine, to Cal Lutheran, to the college student friends I had who just might have been at that bar on college night.
Just like everyone else, I had to wait.
I didn’t want to find out through Facebook that another person died, not again. I didn’t want to sit in class and think about the 10, the 11, the 12 people who lost their lives.
I didn’t want to think about the fact that one of those people could have been one of my people.
I was lucky enough not to have to think that for too long— ironically Facebook was the bearer of good news this time when my friends checked themselves in safely.
Even while I was relieved, immensely so, I also worry about how it feels to be a parent in this day and age. You’re supposed to be able to send your child to a daycare at a preschool and not worry about the big what ifs: what if they they don’t come home, what if someone breaks into the school, what if they have a gun? What if I never see my child again?
People send their children to work, to worship, to college, into the real world, so they can understand how to live. This is what sets them up for the rest of their lives after all, this is when the living really starts. At least it’s supposed to.
I will never understand why or how things like this happen, let alone what we’re supposed to do after it does.
Because life goes on, even when it feels like it shouldn’t. Some people woke up this morning not missing loved ones lost, not wishing this reality was just a nightmare. People are going to work or to class or to school today, just like any other day. Some loved ones are accounted for, some aren’t, yet plans are still made for Thanksgiving, planes arranged for break, and people go on with their lives.
Tonight my PCE (Pilipino Cultural Exchange) family gets to welcome in over a dozen new members to our ranks, and tomorrow we all get to eat good food and celebrate our togetherness as one big club. Our lives go on, not thinking about how easily this could have happened in our town, at The Grad, or even to one of us visiting Borderline last night.
That’s the thing about what happened, about what keeps happening: nothing changes. Not really. Sure, we get a little more scared and a little more worried, or maybe we hold people tighter for a little while. And we keep that up, until we don’t.
Personally, it’s a little exhausting and I sometimes wonder what it’ll be like to raise my own kids— would this have gotten better, worse?
I don’t know where we’re going from here, but something has to change. And I guess our lives will go on whether or not something does. For most of us.
I’ll see you on Tuesday for Poetry Place.