Never Alone

Emily Case, Anthropology Class of 2016

When I first walked on to this campus, when I took my first anthropology course, when I declared my major, and when I began taking upper-division courses I was a “normal” student. 

And then, everything changed. I’m not talking about adopting roles in the department, such as writing assistant or lab assistant. 

I’m talking about the day I almost died. From that day forward, there has been nothing normal about my time here. For a while, I was “the girl that lived,” to many who knew me. They tiptoed around me and were extremely careful with me. 

I thought that care and worry would end when I returned to school. I thought that this department must be large enough that I would be dealt with institutionally and impersonally. I also thought that I would be able to manage on my own a mere ten or eleven weeks after my moderately traumatic brain injury and life-saving cranial surgery. 

I was so, so wrong, on all counts. I came back, and I was terrified. I had been told some very confidence-shaking things: I might not be able to perform at the same academic level as I had before, I might not be able to trust my new and old memories, I might not even be the same person. I hadn’t realized how scary these doubts could be until too late. I had already returned, had already ended my emergency medical leave of absence, had already started classes. 

I probably would have dropped out at some point due to the incredible stress of these doubts if the reaction to my return was as institutional as I had originally expected or perhaps feared. 

I’m here, so it wasn’t. 

From the professor who escorted me home from a final after noticing me in pain to the fellow survivor who opened perhaps painful memories to help guide me and others to everyone who showed care in whatever form they knew how to those who just gave me space to talk through it, I was by no means anywhere near as alone as I had believed I would be. 

When I originally began here, I never imagined there being a time when I would so desperately need a support network to lean on. 

But life happens. 

And everyone here reacted in the best way possible, and for that, you all have my awe, respect, and sincere and lasting gratitude.