#FocusDisruption is a collaboration of all the media outlets within Montclair State’s School of Communication and Media. Our goal is to report stories that highlight the effects or disruption of the last two years and the solutions that have come out of it. All aspects of day-to-day life have been altered but we will be primarily focusing on how mental health, education and the workplace have changed.
I sat quietly in a lecture of over 90 other students in University Hall at Montclair State University. Some chatted softly and others read. The clatter of keys and notifications filled the somber room before our professor began the 12:45 p.m. session. At the same time, almost 5,000 miles away, Russia was launching the first large-scale land invasion in any European country since the Second World War.
The room, both uninformed and over-informed, felt the weight of the moment. More students than I could count had the New York Times open in a different tab noting the updates on the situation, traveling back and forth, while in tandem trying to comprehend the deep and thought-provoking questions of Plato in our Intro to Philosophy class. Our professor, rather understandably, noted the obvious elephant that was squeezed into one of the desks and encouraged us to try and focus our attention on the lesson at hand.
But how could one even remotely fixate on a lesson while questions of global conflict lingered at large?
Many fears and concerns fill our collective conscience on any given day. It doesn’t matter if it is climate change, income inequality or racial injustice. We are deeply connected to these atrocities, both man-made and horrifically natural. How can anyone even pay attention to a lesson on Plato, when there is nothing but complete and utter existential disruption closing in on us?
As young students who are somehow supposed to function in this seemingly collapsing society, there should be an understanding and acceptance that we are collectively mentally displaced. Our focus often is not on the lessons presented on a whiteboard but on outwardly manifesting fears. The fate of Ukraine is just one overwhelmingly bone-chilling concern clouding us amongst dozens.
As an individual with Ukrainian heritage, it’s especially unnerving. I fear for the possible collapse of a sovereign and beautiful nation whose desire to pursue and embrace democracy led to such devastation. So, when instructed to tune out the world and focus for 75 minutes, that’s often not possible.
For so many, there is this paralysis that comes with the harsh realities we are submerged in, and everyone has different things that deviate and utterly disrupt us.
The news at large may not come to a standstill as it did with Ukraine. But every single day, someone in every classroom across this country is distracted due to the state of our society, be it on a local, national or global scale.
Uyghur Muslims are still actively subject to genocidal practices by China. The United Nations reported that we can’t adapt fast enough to combat climate change. Florida keeps advancing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. On top of everything, pandemic fatigue still looms at large, and yet we are supposed to carry on as if nothing is wrong.
Despite age being on our side, we are tired. There is so much dissonance in the air that even stopping for a breath is unnerving. Most of the students here at Montclair State are representatives of Generation Z; we haven’t known a world without conflict and unrest.
We were born in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. We became hyper-aware of financial constraints, often leading to more than familial conflicts, in 2008. We feared for our lives while watching kids our own age be gunned down at schools in 2018. Then, like the rest of the world, we shouldered the responsibilities of a global pandemic by 2020.
At the end of the day, we are deeply distracted and continuously disturbed. For the most part, we push through the mud and find reasons to be present. But sometimes, the reality of this dark and depressing world is a little more than we can handle.
Please be mindful of the usually vibrant and diligent class that one day falls silent. There is a lot on our shoulders, and on occasion, it just becomes too much to bear.