A Love Letter to Rona
The week I returned from spring break, Rona broke out. I vividly remember where my headspace was.
For spring break, I had taken my first road trip from my new home in Michigan to Cincinnati to visit a sister-scholar friend and high school friend and her family! Even though I enjoyed the trip, I still wasn't able to suspend all thoughts of grad school. Working on a poster with Tamika at her kitchen table reminded me that I haven't quite figured out where I want my research to go, and discussing Courtney's kids’ school progress reminded me that I miss working directly with parents, teachers, and students.
Coming back to Lansing, there was a discontentment about school and life. I was utterly unimpressed by my progress on a literature review and my research assistantship, I was regretting a habit of social distancing (before it was mandated), I was desperately needing the heat and humidity of North Carolina's spring season(s), and I was hyper-focused on the mixed mid-semester reviews from students. The most pressing issue-- one anonymous students’ comment about me seeming knowledgeable yet disinterested in teaching. It was true (the root of the issue, I'd like to discuss at a different time), and figuring out how to address it was looming as I returned back to campus.
This semester I taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I remember the first Tuesday class after break going terribly. Firstly, our class location was moved for the day, and students were told the wrong room. Secondly, I was used to having multiple screens connected to the projector, but the new room only offered a connection through my laptop. Lastly, I was not particularly prepared for a student to say he spent spring break in his dorm to avoid any spread of coronavirus to springboard the class into a discussion on implicit bias and stereotype threat, and I certainly was not equipped to answer student concerns about the state of the virus and the future of their semester. It was the longest hour and twenty minutes ever.
I remember packing the classroom and declaring the semester was trash-cans. I remember having that feeling reinforced by going upstairs to process data in my research lab and realizing I related to the students as numbers more than people.
I remember feeling like I needed an extended break to get my own life together. What would happen if everything stopped? I’m pretty sure I asked God this question...aloud. What if I could catch up on coursework without going to campus? What if I had more time to readjust my teaching philosophy and reformat this particular unit? What if I had more time to put into practice gems I’ve been picking up since the new year? What if I had time to get in touch with my emotions and the heart of some of my personal issues?
I remember the next day opening an email from my graduate program assistant and learning that classes were to be moved online by Thursday, my next day teaching.
Online? *scrolls for President's email* Hm.. oh okay.
Fast forward nine weeks later and here we are for a Wednesday Read. The rest of this love letter to Rona is a thank you for her mystical way of upheaving and healing earth at the same time.
Rona has granted me a necessary time of stillness and solace. In these two months, I’ve developed cute and intentional routines such as tea and time with God in the mornings and pulling a card at night and journaling. I’ve more consistently planned out and completed simple at-home workouts and even deep condition my hair more regularly.
Rona has been a break from the mundane illusion of time that typically keeps me in the mindset of surviving versus thriving. I’ve enjoyed more spontaneous and planned FaceTime calls with friends and trying a new dish or vegetable here or there. Like many others of you, Rona has led me to buy more things on Amazon...but also to spend more time and energy with these new books, beauty tools, and trinkets. I have finished a book, which hasn’t happened in a while (Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, I'd recommend) and was invited to a book club with a long-time friend.
Rona has presented a period of reflection and newness on so many levels. Rona forced me to teach online. Point. Blank. Period. Mid-semester I had to get creative about lecturing and add some new strategies in my teaching toolkit. Rona led to #AERA2020 (one of the biggest education conferences) being canceled which meant Tamika and I’s work was null and void. Amid in-person to online transitions, I was invited to speak as a panelist about community-engaged scholarship for American Psychological Association Division 15. Here’s the link to check it out on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew8F7R9OBrQ
Rona canceled all in-person gatherings including #NCPanAf2020 but instead, we got Zoom parties and producer battles and lucky for me, introductions to new yogis, chefs, healers, and artists that I don't believe would have crossed my timeline without our influx of social media use! Rona also led me to collaborate with a group of future Black women PhDs from across the country to create a #transformationchallenge video that I don’t think would have happened otherwise. Here's a link to the video on my Instagram. Nine weeks in, I love you Rona but you upsetting me and my homegirls.
I don't deny or discredit that for some, the coronavirus has brought a time of unavoidable difficulty and despair but it is also a mystical reset for many of us. For me, staying inside has been unexpectedly rewarding but I also acknowledge the ugliness of getting more perspective about people’s true colors - even my own - when life is slowed down. For me, this unforeseen period of intimate time alone created space to work through feelings of anxiety regarding my PhD program and personal life, and feel a resurgence of solace and positivity going into the summer.
Thanks for reading!
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