Initially, this column was just supposed to be a way for me to express myself — a way for me to coherently organize my thoughts about Pasefika and my experiences as a Pasefika student at Harvard, an elite, predominantly white institution. And in a way, it’s been very therapeutic, empowering even, to use this platform as a space not only to exist but also to actively assert my presence as a Pasefika student. But, at the same time, writing this column over the past school year has been a mentally, emotionally, and physically draining experience for me because of the pressures of representation.
To distract myself from the unprecedented fear, anxiety, and uncertainty that have been brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic, I finally caved and downloaded TikTok.
Yes, I know. There are so many other things that I could be doing with my time like reading a book, learning to cook, or even journaling again. But all of those require me to actually put in the effort to think, concentrate, and engage — something I barely have any motivation for. So, I’ve taken to mindlessly scrolling through TikTok videos, memorizing TikTok dances after watching fifty #SavageChallenge videos, and laughing uncontrollably at other relatable comedic content.
Two weeks ago, my biggest worries concerned managing my classes, having three dance practices a week, organizing events for the Harvard College Women’s Center, and writing this column. But two weeks ago, I didn’t know that I would be packing up my things and leaving Harvard for the rest of the semester. I didn’t know that I would be getting stuck in Hawaii for a week with my older brother, scrambling to move my cousin out of her apartment with the threat of her being out of a job soon and unable to cover rent. And I didn’t know that all three of us would be flying to American Samoa together with the fear that we could be carrying a deadly virus back home, threatening the lives of, not only our families, but our entire community. To say that the things I was worried about two weeks ago now seem small and insignificant is quite the understatement.
In fact, as I sit quarantined in an apartment building, separated from my little brother, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, and cousins, I can barely summon enough concentration to carry on with classes over Zoom or even write clear sentences for this piece.
Last month, as I sat in my common room surrounded by pizza boxes and blockmates impatiently waiting to watch Shakira and Jennifer Lopez perform at the Super Bowl LIV halftime show, I could not help but think of home.