Sana Asifriyaz

 As I’m sure many of you are aware, 2020 has significantly scarred our minds and our memories. So, today, I’m going to begin by discussing 2015--arguably the strangest, most eventful year of my life. Ironically, it is the year I least remember. I don’t recollect any details of that year’s events; instead, all I recall are the emotions.

Paradoxically, at the time I weighed half the amount I do today and still somehow felt the heaviest I’ve ever felt. With every step I took, I had to drag myself from one point to another. I was too lethargic to lift a finger, let alone a leg.  Never before had I felt inertia so intensely.

My family and I performed Hajj (a Muslim pilgrimage) that year and, to this day, I sheepishly shrug my shoulders in ignorance whenever they share anecdotes about that time. After all, I can only remember that time as a personal hell. I was 12 and old enough to recall such meaningful fragments of my past. And yet I couldn’t. Some may attribute my amnesia to some sort of Freudian repression. But I would like to think that it is a consequence of a simple biological phenomenon: starvation.

Starvation is often associated with food. However, expand it beyond its restrictive connotations and starvation can apply to just about anything. We’ve all likely experienced hunger at some point in our lives, but have we experienced starvation?

Whether in terms of food or affection, we're all malnourished. Even in 2021, so far, we've been alone, and we’ve certainly felt isolated. Naturally, we’ve been starving for company--a physical and somehow more “real” and, thus, comforting company, instead of its virtual counterpart. Our eyes have been starving for views far more pleasant than a 12x8 screen. Our health has been starving for wellbeing. Some of us are starved of scientific and political literacy--whether we like to admit it or not. Students are starving for a “normal” education. Teachers are starving for a “normal” mode of teaching. Marginalized communities have been starved of safety and support. Many are starved of enough funds, jobs, security, equality, equity. And, of course, some of us are starved of actual food.

We know what happens to an individual biologically when they’re starving. With enough time, their glucose, fat, and muscle mass is exhausted; their heart rhythm destabilizes; they no longer have the capacity to consume enough to survive; and, eventually, the individual will perish. Even this worrisome list falls short of the other various entailments of starvation. But what happens to a person when they’re psychologically starving? Perhaps this is a question you might be able to answer yourself.

Even if we are not starving, we are all likely deficient in some form of nourishment. We are empty vessels in need of fulfillment. Accordingly, we seek meaning in life--whatever we can mentally conceive. To cope with the discomfort of emptiness, we binge. On cereal. On books. TV shows. Movies. On starvation. For sustainability, we seek education to shape us into productive, intellectual beings.

Nourished with a bare minimum amount of food, we are limited to live passively and barely survive. We enable organ functionality--our hearts beat, our lungs breathe, our kidneys detoxify. But, otherwise, we are capable of nothing more. We lack enough energy to take a few strides, to remember. We are to be bedridden.

To say the least, that was 2015 for me. Fortunately, subsequent years have been more full of vitality.

Nourished with food enough for our individual needs, we thrive. We possess the ability to think, concentrate, and learn. Nourished with education and psychological support, we become the ablest versions of ourselves. We create concepts, we develop personalities, we gain a more profound sense of the world we live in. Not only do we devise a purpose for ourselves but we also have the drive to fulfill it. We carry the potential to evolve and nourish others with our perspectives, assistance, and empathy.

Perhaps starvation is a matter much too macabre for a Monday morning. But it is worth realizing that we are indeed like plants--only needier. Nonetheless, investment pays off. So until you can confidently assert that you, in all your existence, are whole, it only stings to suppress your starvation. Instead, accept hunger--both yours’ and others’--and honor it. Thank you.