March 13, 2020, the date changed a lot for me. Truth be told, it changed a lot for so many people. At the time, I had a daily commute of an hour to and from work thanks to the traffic in and out of the Downtown area every day. I had little knowledge of COVID-19. Like many, I was in my safe & comfortable bubble. I only knew what I heard in passing at that point which really wasn't much. It was on that Friday afternoon though that the “sh** hit the fan”, for a lack of a better way to say it. Let’s be real here. A lot of what happened in those first few weeks threw many of us into a tailspin. One that many of us are still dealing with and attempting to navigate our way through.
If you work, as I do, in higher education (or education in general) you had to pivot quickly. We went from what we were comfortable with and used to and into this realm called “the new normal”. I really hate that term by the way. Still do. There is nothing normal about what we all experienced. As a university, we had to figure out to keep our students up to speed on the changes, which happened almost daily at first. All of this while we were trying to figure out how to make all these processes we had that were predominately in-person function in this virtual space...and not just function, they had to function well. We also had to make sure that students still had access to the the resources needed to remain fully engaged in their classes.
Some are still having a very difficult time as they try, like many of us, to balance everything. It is often heartbreaking because we want them to have that college experience so many of us had, but for many of them, they are just doing their best to keep going. Their college experience is likely never going to be what you or I had, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t rising to the occasion. Many have definitely done that.
I am very proud of every single person in my department for the multiple long days, guiding students confused about how things were going with compassion and empathy, and taking as much of it in stride as we all could. It was, and sometimes still is, exhausting and frustrating. Yet, despite numerous technical and functional issues we've had, we somehow made it all happen. Is it perfect? No. Even now, there are numerous challenges to face and overcome. I am not seeing a time where we won't be in that mind space but I am confident that we are doing as much as we can to help support our students.
Personally, it is sometimes hard to find that balance between work and home life. I am always looking for ways to make things work better and may get stuck on something because my mind won't stop until I figure out a solution. Hence, my insomnia decided to kick back into high gear these last few months. I am still working on making sure I take time for myself, but lately, that has been a challenge. I know some of you may relate.
Working virtually does have its advantages, I am no longer making the hour-long drive every day and that commute has been reduced to just a few times per month. It also allowed me to spend the last few months with my dog Castle before he passed in October. The time I would not have had with him otherwise. I will forever be grateful.
I also set some pretty strong boundaries last summer. I think with everything happening in the world I needed to create that bubble again but on my terms. It was important to reevaluate how people made me feel, how I made them feel, and whether that relationship was beneficial to both of us. It is hard to do that when you had cared about someone for so long but things they said and did just did not fit into this new phase I began entering in my life. Growth is hard. Really hard.
So much has happened and I am uncertain of how things will go. Then again, no one is ever certain. The only thing I can think of today, as I sit here and reflect on the last twelve months, is that we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Yet, in that same thought process, I cannot help but wonder how far we would go if we put that same determination and resilience into everything we did. Imagine what we could do then?