Rejecting the Rhetoric of Loss

Madeira Thayer
March 22, 2020

From 4am to 9am on Friday the 13th, I sat on the floor of Madrid Barajas Airport on the phone with various airline customer service representatives searching for a new flight, answers to my questions, and some sense of security and control. Just hours before I was supposed to take off, one leg of my flight was canceled. A few days before that, Trump announced that there would be increased travel restrictions, and nobody knew exactly what that meant. I was scared that if I couldn't find a new flight to the United States right away, I might be stuck in Spain for an unknown amount of time. With most of my friends already back home and with Madrid on the brink of a lockdown, nothing was holding me there. I just wanted to be home. Hours on the phone with customer service yielded little other than frustration. Eventually, I decided to buy a flight to Boston that would leave Saturday the 14th, even though my reimbursement for the canceled flight was (and still is) uncertain. 

That morning, self-pity, anger, and fear reached its pinnacle; however, those feelings had been building for quite some time. Over the last couple weeks in Madrid, I felt loss creep into the center of all my conversations and thoughts. Loss of experiences, loss of time with friends, loss of money. It was all I could focus on. Sadness and anger from loss demand to be felt and ought to be acknowledged; however, their time must be limited. I do think sustained anger is productive when it is the product of injustice, but I was subjected to an unfortunate circumstance, not injustice. 

When I got back to my homestay after my dreadful morning in the airport, I decided to reject the rhetoric of loss. I turned my attention instead to all of the privileges, blessings, and happy coincidences that are still so abundant even with the heightened loss. When I was finally on the plane to Boston the next day, I decided to make a formal list of them. I hope by reading my list you think of some points you might relate to or you think of some of your own. Here is the list I came up with on the plane: 

1) I know I have a place to live in both Madrid and Boston

2) I have enough money to buy a last minute flight

3) The Madrid Barajas Airport had Dyson Airblade hand dryers (You know the ones I'm talking about? I love 'em more than any other hand drying method. It satisfies me so much to have such dry hands without wasting any paper.)

4) I have a wonderful emotional (and logistical) support team who are readily available 

5) I never lost my passport!

6) Actually, I don't think I lost anything (at least nothing major)

7) My host mom was very understanding of the uncertainty and let me back in the house after my flight was canceled

8) I have two bags of goldfish which Danny sent me for Valentine's Day. They're my favorite snack and especially appreciated now because I get absurdly hungry whenever I fly. 

9) My host mom gave me four mandarin oranges to take with me too

10) I feel certain that if I do get coronavirus, my life will not be threatened

11) Nat gave me a great book that I can read on the plane 

12) The seat next to me on the plane is empty! 

13) I have someone to pick me up from the airport (and he's super cute)

14) My whiteness protects me from racist and unjust profiling related to coronavirus 

15) I had the opportunity to go abroad in the first place! 

16) I know my grades will still transfer, so I'm not afraid of staying on track to graduate with all my majors and minors

17) I have health insurance in both the US and Spain

18) I've met wonderful people in Madrid 

19) I am financially able to visit my friends who go to other schools

20) I am a citizen of the United States and so do not fear being allowed back in the country

21) I will not be more afraid to travel after this epidemic passes

22) I have a wide network of people who care about me who have offered help, kind words, and prayers

23) I am certain I will be able to return to Europe again

24) I live in the same country I go to school in, so travel between the two is easy

25) I won't be alone for self-quarantine

26) My food security isn't threatened

27) My mom has a job that allows her to work from home

28) Some really great musicians made some really great music to entertain me during this flight

29) Erin gave me this journal to document my journey, which I wouldn't have done nearly as well otherwise

30) I had no hiccups getting to the airport

31) I had no cash Euros at the end of the trip to worry about spending or exchanging

32) I have a home on the East coast in addition to the West coast to make traveling home cheaper and faster

33) My friends and I had an awesome last couple days

34) The weather was nice enough this week to spend time outside in the parks when museums and other indoor activities closed

35) I went on a couple wonderful weekend trips before I had to go home

36) I have a computer to do online classes on

37) I don't have to worry about paying rent when I get home

38) I can communicate with anyone I might need to, whether they speak Spanish or English

39) I have wifi for online classes

40) This level of fear and uncertainty is new to me, not part of my everyday life

The act of making this list and rewriting it now makes me realize how silly it is to focus on everything I'm losing. Especially that last bullet point. I am exactly a week into quarantine, and I'm certain when I come out of all of this I will be just fine. Actually, I think I will be pretty great. I hope you will be, too. 

Madeira Thayer

<p>I'm a junior at Tufts University majoring in Economics and minoring in Spanish, Latin, and Education. My favorite extracurricular activity is my job at a nonprofit called Let's Get Ready that offers low-income students free SAT tutoring and college counseling. I also love to get outside for a run, hike, or outdoor yoga! I'm excited for all the academic, linguistic, cultural, and natural experiences abroad will bring me!</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Tufts University
Oakland, CA
Explore Blogs