I think it was Arthur Schoppenhauer — or maybe Mr. Rogers — that said the pain of life is much greater than any of us let on. So true. Perhaps this is because 25% or more of us have a diagnosable mental health condition. For Campus Times Humor writers, that number jumps to a staggering 100%. 

But there’s one other struggle, one difficult-to-articulate and just as devastating that, the less we talk about it, the more it dampens our lust for life. It reminds me a lot of Harry Potter’s struggle as the dementors feasted on his childhood trauma for… I forget the reason, but I’d say this is almost exactly analogous. You know what I’m talking about. That thing is the problem of the day-old mask — their weirdly persistent smells that rip you from the present moment and keep you stuck in Yesterday. 

The smells keep you stuck in a loop, forever forgetting to wipe the balsamic from the corners of your mouth after lunch the other day. You even thought about it before eating the salad, you muttered to yourself, “Not again, no.” You thought you’d grabbed a spare for a situation just like this one, and you did. For a blissful moment you felt safe. But alas, the spare goes on, and a single breath brings you back to your Rocky’s from the day before that one. All you can smell is Mel sauce, a smell like eggs and regret.

These smells can keep you stuck in all sorts of places — even stuck on your conquests, your triumphs. If you’ve ever so much as reluctantly used the GAC, because how bad could it possibly be, your mask will be forever tainted by the metallic tang of fitness. For the rest of your day, your mask will remind you of how you decimated your quads; it will remind you of gains to be; it will remind you of the ass you’ve always wanted and, goddammit, it will remind you of the ass you’re going to achieve. Or maybe it will remind you of how you shrugged and left prematurely because, you said, you didn’t feel like waiting around for the machine you needed. Either way, you are stuck in your mask and stuck in the past.

Sometimes, the smell of the day-old mask is not your own. Masks can smell like roommates, whatever that means to you. The confusing and grimy, crusty yet comforting feeling of masking up and being transported back to that one night last year which is a little hazy now, but you’re pretty sure it culminated in you weeping in their arms. Should I be enjoying another person’s face smell? Am I enjoying it? Do faces have smells? So many questions, so little time. I’ll just ask the person next to me for a spare and try to forget this.

Other times, you roll out of bed and panic slightly at your giving away half the day to a night you can’t remember. But then you think, it’s okay, I’m only 20 years old. The non-remembering is kind — blissful, even. But then you re-remember. Your panic slowly builds as you re-re-remember, and again, and then again. Most soberingly you remember your M.O., your bonafide operating system: Meliora. It is hard-wired into you and you can’t un-remember. Even the thought of sitting in the stacks and drooling over your keyboard as your body begs for death brings you a warm wave of Meliora. Only one course of action is natural.

Peace washes over you as you stumble down the stairs in the weirdly moist jeans you forgot to change out of last night toward the beacon of productivity and destroyer of work-life balance that is Rush Rhees Library, because work-life balance is for chumps. And you’re no chump, you workaholic nerd zombie, you. Instead of “braaains,” you groan, “midterrrms.”  You put on your mask and it has this frat-style musk to it, a smell that touches on spilled beer, sweat, and something you can’t place — maybe black mold. All the frat parties you’ve ever attended exist in your memory as a single night, the sweatiest night, and you’re stuck there. You poor soul.

I ask only one thing of you, dear reader. Please. Next time your friend or housekeeper or workshop leader mentions their mask smelling like eggs or sweat, don’t give them the side-eye or raise an eyebrow like the experience is completely foreign to you. Or if it is truly foreign, let’s please not project our standards of cleanliness onto one another. You never know when you might slip up and want to talk about your own mask’s off-putting stench.

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An open letter to all members of any university community

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The dinner showcased aspects of Palestinian culture. It was a unique way of protesting against the genocide, against the Israeli occupation, against the university’s involvement with the genocide.