A pandemic anniversary.
I have been at school on some memorable, challenging days.
April 20, 1999. The day of the Columbine High School shooting. My first year of teaching.
December 14, 2012. Sandy Hook. Fifteen years in, and this is supposed to be getting easier.
November 9, 2016. Protests as our school community reeled in the hours following an unprecedented election.
March 13, 2020. The last day school was anything close to what we now view as “normal.”
Already some students had been pulled from class, working from home to protect older and at-risk family members. We were washing our hands constantly, and frantically wiping down surfaces, all while sharing air in relatively tight spaces, unmasked. We didn’t know what we didn’t know.
There was a brief thought that we might be able to remain open for some students to continue working on campus, but the news of the first regional and then statewide lockdowns changed all that in an instant.
I am a planner by nature, so the uncertainty, the unscheduled calendar, the looming unknown, was significantly harder for me than what became our mundane routine: grocery deliveries (which I have mercifully stopped disinfecting!), walks around the block, and endless Zoom calls.
We are grateful to have avoided the virus, to have maintained our jobs – and health care, and to have entered this (hopefully) final stretch of the pandemic not significantly worse off than we were a year ago.
And while I’m relieved that we no longer have stalk supermarket shelves for flour and yeast, I am also grateful for the time and space we found in the past year.
Less driving. Less doing. Fewer commitments. Fewer distractions. No traffic. No crowds.
More time at home. More time with family. More catching up with friends and family across the country – and the world. More value on opportunities for in-person connection. More appreciating the creativity of humanity – especially Some Good News, the Staying In Podcast, and other products of the pandemic.
This year has also been one of reflection. Of taking stock of where we are, and where we want to be.
I have committed, both personally and professionally, to the work of social emotional learning, not only for our children and our students, but for ourselves as well. Because we cannot teach, we cannot counsel, we cannot lead, we cannot parent, without putting on our proverbial oxygen masks first.
Whether the trauma you carry is deeply-seated, measurable by the ACES scale, or resulting from the ongoing, and wildly uneven social injustice that exists in our society, or the situational trauma from the past year of living through a.global pandemic, or a mixture of some or all of these, giving yourself grace is essential.
Humans are social beings, so a year without regular, in-person, social interactions has drained our collective reserves. Travel is also an integral part of the exposure that humans can use to learn and grow and stretch their boundaries. A year without travel has shrunk our worlds. So here’s to continuing to find ways to safely “fill your cup”, while taking a screen break – outdoor or solo exercise, cooking new recipes, writing, reading, hiking, cycling, yoga, baking, phone calls…
2020 was the deadliest year in American history. So for those of us who are still here, we need to be grateful for our health and survival, but also thoughtful about the mark we may choose to leave. The one-year mark has brought us hope in the form of several vaccines, optimism is the downward trends of virus statistics, and, increasingly, glimpses at our post-quarantine world.
For us, a year in lockdown helped us see just how much water our little guy needs to be his best self. So we are creating Kokua Kona to allow him year-round access to swimmable water. Just one of many pandemic silver linings for us.
While the eerie sense of dread that closed in on us a year ago this week is hard to forget, “celebrating” the pandemic anniversary with vaccine #2 (and a takeout cocktail!) is a fairly fitting way to mark the occasion.
When you start to look for reasons to be grateful, you see more and more reasons. Never have I appreciated more the sound of rain on the rooftop, the sun on my shoulders, the taste of my food, the touch of my immediate family (who knows how long these guys will keep hugging their mom?), the sight of dear friends – even from 6-10 feet away.
Time is fleeting, so seize the day. Write the book. Start the business. Go back to school. Leave the job. Buy the house. And when circumstances allow, hug, laugh, cry, scream, cheer, and love in person.
And educator friends, as we prepare for the next phase of unknown, remember to value connection over content and everything will be okay.