Just Putting Words on “Paper”

These past few weeks have been full of “Big Emotions,” as we sometimes say around here. I am in a very privileged situation, with a steady job that isn’t going to disappear this semester, a nice house, kids who aren’t terrors, no worries about where the next meal is coming from. And yet.

Sometimes the anxiety creeps in, and sometimes it roars in, and sometimes it crashes in like a tsunami. Am I going to get sick? Are my students going to get sick? Are my family going to get sick? And those are only the questions that concern me the least. More pressing, I find myself concerned about my kids’ relationship with each other (which is actually quite strong at the moment but I still worry). I find myself concerned about whether my friends who are healthcare providers are signing their own death warrants by going to work. I find myself concerned about my students who are drowning in their own wells of anxiety about school, work, home, living.

Can I be honest, though? I don’t miss many face-to-face interactions. I’ve heard from a number of people that their main source of anxiety is not being able to go out with people. I guess I’ve just proved once and for all to myself that I’m an introvert. Far from wanting to see other people and go out, sometimes my most fervent wish is to socially distance from the people in my house right now. That’s not to say things are going badly. They aren’t. In fact, social distancing with my family has been a definite positive.

But homeschooling two kids and trying to teach my students at the same time is exhausting. I always said that I didn’t want to homeschool, and now I definitely don’t want to, ever again. But we’re muddling through. We’re taking some time to learn new things, but mostly we’re just in maintenance mode. (We did do a pretty fun science experiment today; I’m looking forward to more things like that once GMU’s semester is over.)

I really miss my students, though. I chose to do my classes asynchronously (more on that in another post, maybe), which means I haven’t seen them in weeks. The first few days I missed them a ton. Then it settled into a “this is how it is” feeling. But I did video check-ins with some of my students today and now I miss them dreadfully again.

I may write another blog post about online learning, and how I’m dealing with the pivot. To be honest, I’m not sure I have anything useful to say. Everyone’s approach is so idiosyncratic, so particular to their individual classes, that hearing how I’m doing things probably isn’t that interesting.

I do get a little upset when I hear that professors are giving their students MORE work to do right now “because they have so much more time.” That’s garbage. No one has more time right now. Not even the people who have nothing to do. We’re all living in a state of general anxiety that makes focus and productivity a Herculean struggle. On the days we succeed in focusing, we’re exhausted. On the days we don’t, we’re exhausted. But no one has “more time” for more work. If we have more time, it’s to be creative, to express how we are processing this new and terrifying world. It’s to be with our families and spend more time loving them. It’s to reach out to our friends and neighbors (from a safe social distance) to make sure they’re ok. It’s not to work.

So I guess my main goal in this weird and anxious time is to care about people more, not less. My students are probably getting tired of me asking how they’re handling things, if I can do anything to help them. But I’m going to keep asking.

I think I’m using this blog post as a coping mechanism, just to write down some of my own big emotions. I probably will write up that blog post about the pivot to online learning, later. Today felt like a good day on that front: I tried something and I think it worked really well. So maybe I do have something to say after all, if only to myself.

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