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image of Rie Ohta on Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park

April 08, 2020

Scattered Thoughts

By Rie Ohta, senior computer science major

Recently, my thoughts have been going in a million directions at once, even more so than they usually do. I’ve decided to lean into that and share some of my thoughts and experiences. Staying connected is more important than ever, and I hope my story, or parts of it, can contribute to keeping our CMU community connected.

Loss is a common theme right now — we’ve lost our in-person interactions, we’ve lost Carnival, we’ve lost our normal Commencement ceremony. For a lot of my friends who are graduating and moving on to the next phase of their lives after May, they’ve lost the rest of their college experience. It’s heartbreaking. But it’s also bittersweet in a way — we’re hurting from these losses, but I can’t help thinking that I’m so grateful to be a part of a community that I care about enough to hurt this much. Although we’re physically apart, we’ve been tied even more tightly together through our shared yet unique experiences. We mourn what we’ve lost, but we’ll come back together, each carrying a piece of this history with us.


In just a mere four weeks, the Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens Facebook group has exploded. Almost all of the content comes from students finding small ways to combat the chaos and uncertainty of everything going on. We’re definitely hiding behind these memes, but who can really blame us? We’ve created our own “little” community, coming together in these times to laugh at how absolutely ridiculous this all feels with the undertones of, “It’s okay, we understand. We’re here for each other. None of us know what’s going on, I promise.”


I used to hate running, but now I go outside and run almost every single day. When I rhetorically asked a friend why my motivation to run has suddenly increased, he said running is one of the few things I have control of right now. And it’s true — when I run, it’s a small escape from the world and my own thoughts because I’m only focused on the music in my ears and my breathing, and I get to decide where I’m going. Beyond a mental reminder to keep my distance from others, I can almost forget all the craziness happening in the world.


Some small ridiculous things:

  • My fellow Tartans and I have really spent a few days drawing chains of fruits and veggies on our Instagram stories.
  • We’re abandoning our real-life chores for virtual chores to pay off our debt to a capitalist raccoon in a video game because it’s cute.
  • I became very invested in debating whether chewy or crispy cookies are better (the answer is crispy on the outsides and chewy on the insides > chewy > crispy, by the way).


We’re all going through the same thing and yet our experiences are all so unique— we each have different needs and wants and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to how we can feel “normal” right now. It’s terrifying, yet fascinating. And it makes it even harder to try and support each other right now. It feels like the best we can really do is offer an open ear, a friendly face on a screen, and a “how are you doing?” each day. We’re all trying to find little ways to help ourselves and each other feel a bit more grounded.


One of the biggest challenges during this pandemic is knowing that, in order to take care of each other, we literally cannot physically be there for each other. It’s a strange paradox to live in, where the most responsible thing to do is stay isolated from one another.


Sometimes we really just have to let ourselves feel what we’re feeling and sit with our thoughts and emotions for a little bit. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re feeling or what we’re thinking, but we try to take comfort in knowing we’re all a little lost right now.


That’s my story — a small glimpse into my head. Your story is different than mine, but we probably share some common threads. I’d love to learn more about your experiences if you’re willing to share them — I’m collecting stories from the CMU community through my CMU Strangers Project. I think now more than ever, it’s valuable for us to share and see how we’re all going through this, separate but together.

A native of Cupertino, California, Rie Ohta is a senior computer science major and psychology minor. She is involved with C# Singers and Awareness of Roots in Chinese Culture's Spring Theater. Next year she will be a Fifth-Year Scholar working on the CMU Strangers Project.