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i don’t know how to comfort people by Anika H. '26

i’ve learned that people here rely on each other. in a greuling academic environment, you most often turn to the people around you for support. people here are so painfully kind. within two months of staying here, i already feel indebted to nearly everyone on hall.

when all is said and done, i feel better.





how to do it



i see someone stressed, upset, and feel the urge to comfort them.

“are you doing ok?”


and they are clearly not ok. i don’t want to ask them “are you sure you’re ok?” because that feels demanding and i don’t want to intrude on the space they need.

so i stay silent.

and then i realize i’m not helping by keeping quiet, so i desperately think of something to say instead. but what do i say? what do i say to my friend who’s usually happy but right now looks like they’re about to cry? i don’t want to force them to be happy again, because it’s better to let them heal on their own time. i want to tell them “it’s okay not to be okay,” i want them to dump it on me like i once did to them,

but what if they don’t want to? it takes a certain amount of trust in someone to confide to them your sadness, and i’m unsure whether they trust me yet. after all, we’ve only barely known each other for two and a half months.

they keep sitting there, or walking, or typing away on their laptop, and so i ask:

“do you want a headpat?”

and then they either tell me

“no, not today”

or lean their head towards me so i can ruffle their hair a little bit.

colors of stress

what do i do next? i always get stuck at this part because i’m not sure whether i’ve annoyed them or made them feel better. half the time i just keep staying silent, and hoping my presence would tell them that i’m open to listening.

how presumptuous of me to think that i mean enough to them to comfort them just by being there.

i mean, i’m not saying anything, i’m not doing anything, and hell, i might be in their way if they needed to be alone in that moment. i wish they would tell me what they think, but you can’t force people to talk. so i wait for something to change. i wait for them to say something, or feel better, or worse (i really hope they don’t),

but nothing happens. i back away for a minute

but like a fruit fly buzzing around rotting fruit, i come back and hope something happens. most of the time it doesn’t.

and so it repeats.

what repeats?

“are you doing ok?”


and i come and go and come and go around them and buzz internally like a fly, wondering whether to do something. so i don’t end up doing anything.

eventually i leave

or they leave

or i stay long enough

to mirror what they do,

sitting side by side, psetting next to them, or walking next to them

trying to match my footsteps with theirs

plodding the ground with the same rhythm,

in some ridiculous

futile way

to try and understand what they’re feeling.


walking side by side