Moments we see hurtling our direction fill our lives, and we are unable to avoid them regardless of our emotional preparation or bastions of security. There are numerous events we sense developing over long periods which we never address with any urgency, for we always believe we have time, plenty of time. There are also those incidents in our lives that strike us from our blind side, those that leave us wondering why we never considered anything like this could ever happen.
We know all of this yet seem surprised when any one of these situations occurs. While many people complain and fret over how our world has changed, others become more reflective, often searching for some meaning in whatever pain, suffering, or inconvenience which has attached itself to our lives. Once full of beating rhythms, a constant shuffle of steps, and a breathing list of anticipated milestones, life now spins to a stop as we long for a return to normalcy. In our minds, we know that normal is farther away than we can imagine.
I felt Friday, March 13th, coming. I was not surprised when this day arrived, but I could not believe how it just slid right into our lives, turning our world sideways. Meeting as a faculty for two hours that morning to discuss whatever preparations we could make for a possible school closure because of the coronavirus pandemic did little to prepare me for the moment when the principal would make the closing announcement later that morning. I was even less prepared for my juniors and seniors who came to class throughout the day. Each brought a challenging gamut of emotions, a unique set of individual concerns, and a definitive degree of uncertainty regarding the shift in whatever routine or normalcy they had in their lives.
Cup your hands under a running faucet of warm water. Do your best to keep your hands and fingers closed tightly together while letting the water flow over the top into the sink below. Move your cupped hands slowly from the faucet while maintaining the tightness in your hands to prevent any water from slipping through the crevices. The water you try desperately to keep dribbles out of the cracks only to spiral down the drain. That is how I felt that day, how my seniors felt.
My seniors tossed many questions my way, but I could only offer uncomfortable hope and reassurance despite having no answers to allay their fears. Second-semester senior year and the usual rites of passage afforded generations of seniors before them seemed to be slowly seeping through the seniors' tightly clenched hands. The dreams and expectations of their transition from high school into the real world appear to be disappearing ever since the real world landed hard on their doorstep.
When we have lost something, we worry. Initially, we write personal narratives about life being unfair and never going the way we want it to go. On that Friday, I selfishly wondered about how inconvenienced my life was going to be. I worried about the changes I would have to make to my plans and teaching style to convert to "distance learning." Anxiety bubbled over while I contemplated a loss of freedom to come and go as I pleased. Eventually, emotion gives way to reason through an understanding of the severity of the situation.
In the grand scope of a pandemic, my worries are inconsequential to the lives of people who have contracted the virus or whose family members who have fallen ill and perhaps even died. My problems are negligible to the concerns of doctors and nurses who care for the sick and business owners the government has identified as non-essential and closed. We all have the ability to check ourselves, replacing fear, anger, and frustration with perspective, reasoning, and empathy.
Reality settled uncomfortably in my life over the next few weeks. I attempted to strike a balance watching news alerts and press conferences on the pandemic, continually checking in on social media, and completing my long-distance teaching work. One aspect of my life I pushed aside was my spiritual well-being; I chose to busy myself with the other three in the hope that any sadness, regret, or anxiety would eventually fade. My heart kept revisiting my classes, particularly my seniors who continued to complete their assignments in Classcraft Quest or Google Classroom. I missed them.
I began to revisit moments throughout the year that remained in my heart. I remembered the newness of the classroom at the beginning of the year and the eager faces of students I greeted at the door. I heard the applause of students who eagerly anticipated the next Random Event in Classcraft and the complaints of students who are not particularly "artsy" whenever we would do scrapfolios. I shrugged off the embarrassment I felt when the students yelled my name at games but treasured the time one of my students left a CCHS cowbell on my desk to ring during the next football game. I shared the pride of completing a research paper or a long book as well as the loss, the confusion, and the anxiety they felt March 13th and the days following. I relived my year-long experiences with the hard workers, the jokers, the quiet ones, the confused, the texting-under-the-desk ones, the sleepy ones, the kind ones, and the lunch crew. All of them. That is my life as a teacher: meeting my students where they are to the best of my ability, finding common ground to create a learning community, and establishing a safe place for all to discover potential and feel a connection. Yeah, I miss them.
I have been asking myself what I hope to gain from stranding myself in the past while being constantly worried about what I am missing or what the next day will bring. Quite honestly, I am struggling to put this all together in one convenient thought or perspective. I know that at times I have not been as grateful or invested in those ordinary moments, forgetting that they disappear with the click of the second hand on a clock. I know that at times I vainly struggle with controlling my path to the future, believing that if I work hard, follow the rules, and live right that the future will be as I desire. I know that there is a vast world outside of mine with people whose problems are much more severe than mine are to me.
I stand in front of the faucet as the water falls into my cupped hands. I need to recognize the reality that this water is never going to remain in my hands. I can appreciate it while it is there, feeling the warmth of the water on my skin or raising it to my lips to drink. Once it is gone, I can always return my hands beneath the faucet to replenish that which I once had. Ultimately the most significant part of all of this is how I choose to live life. I can continue to be angry, bitter, and afraid, or I can remind myself that there are parts of our lives that are never guaranteed. The noblest choices are to remain optimistic despite all odds and to cherish that which experience has afforded us. We should pray and be kind to one another, continuing to do the best we can with the understanding that the world is not always going to be as we wish it could be.
This is my first promo for a blog. I am proud that it captures some of the feelings I have been experiencing these past few weeks.
I am going follow this post with a What's Up, Buddy? podcast on Monday, March 30th. I hope you can listen.