Some of my fondest days were spent as a member of the KKK. The devil-may-care attitude, the unwavering confidence in my purpose, the fiber of belonging woven into each of us…that’s not what I miss the most. It’s the satisfaction that I’ve lost, that I’ve been desperately trying to find, here and now, no longer an affiliate of the Kool Kids Klub but instead a drudging undergraduate, questioning the promise of the future and yearning for the sanctity of the past.
My sense of clarity hasn’t aged well. To draw from literally every source of angst ever: what am I doing here? Nine years ago, the neighborhood kids and I started a club that vowed to prioritize, solely and wholly, enjoyment. Not just our own enjoyment, but the enjoyment of anyone who had the good fortune of encountering our organization. We threw surprise parties, we went on adventures, we devised secret languages. Nine years later, things are not as much about enjoyment as they are about insurance. I find myself in a place where rejection is the norm and entitlement is the trend. I’m living in uncertainty. I’m not sure whether I trust anyone’s ability to discern the competencies of others, but what if passing judgement is the very thing that makes for a functional society?
Exclusivity has been a recurring theme in my own life and, if I may take the gentle liberty of extrapolating, in the narrative of the entire universe. Recently, the word “no” has been revitalized, sporting a wrinkle-free, youthful glow, used in many a way to bolster the self and impair the other. Can Muslims enter America? No. Can women have uncontested control of their reproductive systems? Nope. Can we discuss climate change? Negative. Can marginalized groups be granted equal opportunity, can visual bias be challenged, can we love whomever we love without expediting our journeys to damnation? Yes! (read: No!) Nine years ago, I didn’t predict that approval would transform from an internal force to an external one. Even with a child’s limitless imagination, I didn’t imagine that we would be demanded to prove ourselves worthy — a rigged battle in itself — for access to the ingredients of happiness, be it education, proximity to family, sufficient funds, etc. I didn’t recognize that the method to all the madness was in fact formulaic, calculated. But, although well-versed in the art of pessimism, even I fail to see the worst sometimes. And maybe that’s a testament to our goodness, maybe our childhood selves live on within us. Maybe we aren’t so ruthless after all. Or maybe we are.
I notice myself inching dangerously close to the thralls of Rosy Retrospect. I need no convincing that in comparison to the present, the history of humanity is equally (if not exceedingly) gruesome. Yes, our grand tale won’t be told with a hero and a villain or truly distinct forces of good and evil. It’ll likely be a medley of disastrous victories and victorious disasters. Our current hostile situation might not have any more sway than a single drop of rain, but in this moment, it is everything. The globe is at an impasse, human rights are being violated, and we are more primitive than ever before in our insensitivity.
In the spirit of full disclosure, my consciousness of the hardships that are had by all are sponsored in large part by the hardships that are had by myself. It’s fairly natural, I think, to unlock the doors to greater suffering through your own worries and qualms. Yet, of the million futile wishes I make daily to fix everything up, I don’t often waste one wishing for a utopian world – that seems, in some forlorn way, to be inviting chaos. For now, I wait and wonder.
Eventually, I grew up. I discovered that KKK. was not the most ideal acronym to describe a bunch of fun-loving kids, unaware that we would not always live, but sometimes survive. It suddenly became obvious that my friends and I, all those years ago, occupied a sheltered space. I understood how intertwined the trajectory of my own life is with the whims of stark strangers. I realized that there are things in the world meant only to hurt. There are people in the world who task themselves with exploiting and demeaning the public. And even so, we are expected to conquer it all, and go on and on, ad infinitum…and I guess that’s what we’ll do.
Priya Kankanhalli is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected] Matters of Fact appears alternating Tuesdays this semester.