HECUA programs offer students a chance to think deeply about the issues that matter most, and we’d like to share a piece of that experience with you. This semester, students in our Inequality in America, Art for Social Change, and Making Media, Making Change programs are writing a series of blog posts on a topic of their choosing. We asked Inequality in America students to consider a theory or reading that intersects with their lived experience. Making Media, Making Change and Art for Social Change students will offer a window into their creative processes, and describe how what they are learning guides their art. Over the next few months we’ll publish a number of these powerful reflections from our students. Please share them widely! You can find all of the posts by searching the HECUA classrooms category on our blog.
a New Normal
By Megan Lovitz
Positivity and optimism are hugely important when it comes to a battle with cancer– we all know that. Whether the battle is your own or that of a loved one, hope takes the front seat. With a disease that is so very hopeless, that hope is often all the fighter and their family have. In my case, my mom was the fighter and our family was right along with her in a battle against stage four breast cancer that lasted nearly three years. She passed away on July 4th, 2016. On this day and the blur of days that followed I wanted to take back my hope. I wanted to go back and shake my younger self by the shoulders for thinking a battle with stage four breast cancer could be won. I wanted to take back the time I spent wishing she would get better and spend that time with her. But these were simply not possibilities.
After thinking that hope was worthless without my mom, I eventually found that the world I lived in had to exist without her. I had lost the most important person in my world, but it kept going. In my short film “Create Your World,” I explore how incredibly important creativity and imagination were to me as a child, and how these traits carry me through grief as a young adult. I hope that in telling my story of sadness and loss in a colorful way, others who are fighting similar battles will find comfort in my images and story. People told me countless times to stay positive during the battle, but after my mother’s death, it seemed as though nobody knew what to say. So I’m saying it; we must create our own happiness. There are positive ways to face losing a loved one, and I intend to find them.
The idea to reignite my childhood optimism started forming when I returned to work after my mom’s passing. A coworker told me that her mom died when she was 10, and that you have to ‘find a new normal’ after such a tragic loss. I listened to her words, and it was painful just to imagine a world without my mom. But the more these words rolled around in my head, I realized that my journey of life without my mom had only just begun. Once her absence became more real to me, I let that ‘new normal’ float to the surface of my mind. I thought a lot about my coworker’s words. I thought about how my 10 year old brother was finding his new normal with spending more time with his friends and at our grandparents’ house. I thought about what my new normal might look like. I thought about my mom. I thought about her positivity through it all, and how years before the cancer, she brought joy into my life just by the way she laughed.
With these thoughts always weighing on me, I try to take strides every day toward a new normal. Toward happiness. Toward building my world into something beautiful again.
In “Create Your World,” I used colors and shapes that represented aspects of my mind as a child. I didn’t see the world the way people told me I should. When I was about 12, my mom told me that she thought it was really strange that I could sing a song overtop the radio. I just blinked at her in confusion thinking, “Why would I listen to a song I didn’t like when I could sing a song I liked?” She laughed and just accepted it as a quirk of mine, similar to my belief that our family dog and I were both wolves. I always fixed my world to the way I liked. In this film I made sure to explore some of the oddities that exist within my mind, like how I always colored people with orange skin or how I believed a bear lived in my grandma’s basement for the majority of my childhood. I used to change my world without even thinking about it, so when I was prompted to ‘find a new normal,’ I didn’t know how to respond. I had always found my own normal. I never had to try.
Now I find that I DO have to think about it. So I reflected on my childhood and how the unshakeable optimism I possessed made everything better. I realized that happiness is often something that needs to be created or actively sought out. And I feel that this is what needs to be said after losing a loved one. I’m not sure why the reluctance towards talking about grief and the loss of a loved one exists so strongly. Perhaps the people close to me haven’t lost anyone yet. Or maybe they think that every loss is too unique to share the journey they went on to find their new normal. Or possibly they don’t know how I’ll respond. Grief is something that has to happen at some point in a person’s life, and simply saying, “after a great loss, we must find a new normal,” is enough to spark hope.
The reconstruction of an entire world takes a lot: a lot of time, a lot of emotion, a lot of self. I have only just started the reconstruction of my world, but the more I talk about it, make art about it, and the more I write about it, the more my desire to live in that world grows. To ignore the fight that comes after a lost battle is an injustice to yourself and the people in your life. To lose hope after the loss of a loved one would be just as awful. My world was already changed without my permission. Now it’s time for me to make the changes.