I don’t remember, with clarity, any moment of the first two weeks of this semester.
I must have hugged my friends after seeing them for the first time in months; I must have kissed the girl whom I’d traveled 20 hours to visit during the last week of Winter Break, before she—she must have—decided that she wouldn’t see me when I’m sick; I must have taken heaping plates of food from the “Main Line” of the Dining Center and later only nibbled at what seemed softest or most Nutella-covered, and I must have thrown up most of that, too.
I think I read Hobbes on the Tri-Co Van, while Michael, the driver, shuffled between the classical channel and the jazz one; I think I announced the women’s basketball game, crediting my lapses of attention to the chamomile tea in my mug; I think I said something about independent film in my French class, but maybe I didn’t. I really don’t remember.
When I think about the long hours I spent in my room on cold afternoons, with one eye half open and the other confused, staring at the wall in front of me, as Ben Stiller movies from the 90s played on my computer, I begin to realize the cost of having mono—the cost of physically missing over a week of my classes, over a week of my life, and mentally absenting nearly every one since.
Monetarily, I’ve forfeited thousands of dollars from the school, the government, and my own bank account. Socially, despite having met hundreds of people in my first semester, I’ve yet to feel regrounded in comfort with anyone outside of my friends on my floor—the ones who’d walk to the Dining Center at my pace, when I wasn’t sure if I could walk a full half mile by myself—and the members of my a cappella group—the ones who, even when my facial expressions have faded from perpetual cheeriness to fatigue and confusion, always yell my name in excitement when I open the door to enter rehearsal.
But, what about the effects that aren’t enumerated in wasted tuition fees, lowered exam grades, and an ended romance? What are the consequences of my sickness when I look beyond myself, my grades, and my bills? If I believe my own conjecture that I’m here based off of both my own merit and the opportunities I’ve been given—and that, had I gone to a school ten miles south of Glenbrook North, I’d have never dreamed of an education beyond the scope of Urbana-Champaign—then there appears to be something painfully wrong about my willingness to follow the nurse’s directions and remain in my dorm for the next week, as I let my classes and my schoolwork slip away, with only a bewildered sense of acceptance.
As someone living with a privilege nearly incomprehensible to most of the world, I lay in bed for a week, maximally mentally stimulated by the thought of someone opening my door to ask if I felt okay. I acknowledge that, had I attempted to finish all of my homework and attend all of my classes, a task I can barely accomplish now, I would have inevitably failed to fulfil my wishes, and, most probably, I would have propelled my body into further distress. But, a buzzing gadfly within me will always ask if I could have done it all, if I should have abandoned my cerebrum-strengthening responsibilities.
Although I most likely behaved exactly as I should have to better my health and speedily return to the community, I still cannot wholeheartedly justify my choice to ignore my privilege and focus on myself.