Mariah Proctor is a junior at Brigham Young University.

Dear Empathy,

I don’t know why you’ve chosen to be my tormenter this week. You are such an essential part of what I want to do, and how I want to do it, and what I want it to do for other people. I’m a little hurt and confused as to why you’d turn on me like this, and how it is that I still manage to love you so much.

You give me the power to understand how people feel, even when I’ve never felt that way, and in this house that I live in, full of people in love, you give me the power to be in on the conversation, even when I don’t have a subject to which to direct my butterflies and bliss.

You were the breakthrough that brought me some of the closest friends I’ve had, crying together over both shared and individual sorrows. Watching the tears fill up in someone’s eyes, and like a contagious infection, feeling the hot brimming tears in my own. Even as I cried, I loved you for that. I loved that you could bring me that and give me this incredible depth of experience, without asking that I actually experience pain and disappointment in all of its varieties.

But this week you’ve brought my tear storage to the surface and every moment has been a fight to hold it back. My life is not perfect, but should someone ask how I am, I can honestly answer that “many things are going well” and smile to think of the little triumphs that keep me on the up and up. This week shouldn’t have been a trial as I look at the cards I’ve been dealt, and yet, here I am, ill and heavy with the tragedies of others.

You’ve given me the ability to feel acutely the severing of potential as unforeseen events changed the course of someone’s dreams and pinned down permanently a life that could’ve been anything and taken him anywhere. When that friend’s heart was broken, and his universe shattered for the first and most jarring time, you gave me the ability to sit right there in the pile of shattered universe pieces with him and feel the darkness that remained as he felt it.

You gave me the ability to be right there, but not the tools to know what to do or say once I get there. I can cry with my friends, laugh with them, sigh with them, even die with them, but what do I say at the end? What can I do but hug them a little tighter and whisper reassurances, which in that moment are as empty as just about any other words my lips can produce?

The intensity with which you bombarded me this week was such that even when I was informed that the termites we experimented on in biology were blind, I almost wept to imagine the life that they led, and my ignorance for not knowing their inability to see their world that we were trying to manipulate for our own academic gain.

I’ve loved you so completely and so deeply for the gift you have been to me. I’d rather feel pain, even vicariously then feel nothing at all. I find myself “proud of my broken heart since thou didst break it,/ proud of the pain I did not feel till thee,/ proud of my night since thou with moons dost slake it,/ not to partake thy passion, my humility” (Emily Dickinson).

So thank you, I suppose; gratitude that is due and as yet not given for my part. Thank you for the depth and the hope and the despair and the joys, I value them all—though this week I almost could not. I love you (and I hate you).

Though I kick against you mightily, be resilient, as the ages of this world have proven you to be, and come back to me, even when I tell you vehemently that I can stand you no more. You must know well by now that what people say and what they mean are often two very different beasts.

Please block up your ears and listen only to my heart, a thing which you do best.