BY SARAH CRITCHFIELD
There’s something so sweet about a fresh start.
The end of my college career came abruptly and unforgivingly. Quarantine was spent scrolling online for hours and weeping white woman tears at the hopelessness of public health that hinges on individual choice. Could being asked to care for a stranger by covering your cough with cloth really spark an ideological divide? I was ripped out of my childish naivete as the importance, immediacy, and presence of illness, racism, and capitalism bled into my privileged and protected worldview.
This upheaval of my immediate surroundings struck my heart with constant questions. Jeanette Winterson asks, “Why is the measure of love loss?” I felt so much loss and was trying to pull the love out of those nostalgic achings. Scrambling between Facetimes and phone calls, my friends and I daydreamed about human connection and change.
I did not realize this change would glow like an El Paso sunset or that I’d fall in love with the world all over again. Joy stretched the skin around my smile so much I couldn’t keep my secrets ensnared. In an embarrassing burst of overabundance, I blurted that the roommates I barely remembered the names of were my best friends. Even though we blushed past the polite quiet and flowed into the kind continuation of the next subject, I felt the fist my heart was holding unfurl.
Villa Maria is a wondrous unsettling of my insatiable search for perfection. Being a reader and researcher has value, but I am constantly reminded of how important it is to be a person first. Thinking I’m the protagonist and being fueled by image or others’ opinions of me is waaaay different from actual actions and efforts.
I can’t keep saying I’m a social justice advocate by slapping Redbubble stickers on Apple products. In the middle of this white guilt-filled revelation, I remember Brianna Chandler’s call to action, “I will love myself through the unlearning...We must be patient with ourselves, while also leaning into accountability and growth.”
My work demands acts of community care. Care is listening to residents unfold their hearts, reading their handwritten poems, or cherishing the laughs their TikToks pull out of you.
In the middle of journaling about jokes and the need for seriousness, I come across the meme account @possumkratom69’s post that reads, “Imagine a world where violence is rare, where people are free, where no one goes hungry, where we treat the environment right, where land is returned to Indigenous peoples and justice is served for the marginalized. Taste it. See it. Revel in the image. Let it sink into your bones. And help us make it real.”
I’m learning every day that a new world is possible and I hope to be walking alongside the people guiding us there. This world must be born of joy and liberation. It is creative and imaginative. It’s belly laughs and beauty and dreams of better.
Sarah Critchfield (she/her) was born in St. Louis and just finished studying English and Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Dayton. When she isn’t sharing stories, she is skateboarding, ordering oat milk lattes, contemplating getting bangs, or crying to Lorde in the car. Sarah loves to read and write about gender, sexuality, prison abolition, communicating across difference, shame, and sisterhood. Sarah has plans to overshare on the internet, break into the feminist stand-up scene, and do her best to dismantle white-supremacy, patriarchy, and other systems of oppression. The five things that make her happy are hugs from friends, finding new vegetarian restaurants, scrolling through Twitter, doing people’s astrological birth charts, and meeting people’s families.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.