OPINION: Put yourself first

By Madeline Papcun

 It’s an understatement to say that at any given moment there’s a lot going on in the world. And our increasingly-connected and technological society allows us constant access to information and a 24-hour news cycle that is remarkably pervasive. 

In fact, last Friday I was packing my car to visit my roommate in Cape Cod for the weekend, struggling to carry everything in one trip, when I got a notification from the New York Times on my phone. In an instant, this notification filled me with fear — letting me know that the Supreme Court of the United States had overturned the longstanding Roe v. Wade ruling. Suddenly, the law had been changed, with the legal status of abortion being left up to the states, ensuring reproductive rights would change across the nation. 

I stood in my driveway, bags still in hand, utterly overwhelmed. Suddenly, my three-hour drive to the Cape felt impossible. How could I spend a weekend at the beach when the right to bodily autonomy is threatened in roughly half the states, with at least 13 states banning the procedure immediately or near-immediately?

It made me feel so small, so powerless. It is a terrifying thing to live in a country where you can lose the right to control your own body so swiftly, on a random summer morning. And yes, this can seem dramatic as I live in Connecticut, a state that is not likely to ban abortion. But not everyone is in the same position; as NPR explained, “For all practical purposes, abortion will not be available in large swaths of the country.” 

But, my weekend plans were set weeks ago. Not one to cancel last minute, I went anyway, and did my best to relax. We paddle boarded and swam at the beach, visited Provincetown and generally had a great little weekend getaway. But there was this looming fear throughout the trip that I couldn't escape. 

And this is the issue with being so connected all the time — there is no break. It’s oppressive, being so aware of what is going on all around, nearly impossible to escape doomscrolling.

Yes, you have a duty to fight for your rights and the rights of others. This is especially true when living in a country where the government does not want you to have full control of your body. But this responsibility should not come at the cost of your own health, mental or physical. So you should protest. You should donate to organizations that will protect the right to choose, if you’re financially able. Speak out against injustices such as this one; use your voice and your remaining freedom of speech. But don’t let that be the absolute only thing you do — at the cost of yourself. 

What I’m saying is that on Friday, I did finish packing up my car. I drove the three hours to the Cape, got there and hugged my roommate. I texted my coworkers at my college newspaper that I was away for the weekend, but I would be more than willing to write an editorial on what this decision means for people our age on Monday. Moreover, on Monday I followed through on this promise, writing editorials and trying to do what I could for reproductive justice in America. 

But most importantly, I took a break first. I put my health, and my relaxation, above my work. When the world is such a scary place it’s hard to remember that the weight of it does not rest solely on your shoulders alone. Do what you can, but give yourself space to breathe. Shoulder the burden of fixing the world with the help of others, not on your own, and not at your own expense.

Madeline Papcun, who is entering her junior year at the University of Connecticut, is an intern this summer in the Record-Journal newsroom. She can be reached at mpapcun@record-journal.com.


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