In the Spring 2020 semester, two weeks of online school sounded incomprehensible, and now I have completed over a year of online classes. I had my fair share of positive and negative experiences that came along with online class. But, as I look forward to the prospective in-person classes next year, here are some of the lessons I’ll be taking with me into the future.
The one year mark of the pandemic has come and gone, and I’m not sure exactly when or if things will go back to “normal.” However, I do know that I have adapted somewhat to remote school and work. Even though technology governs much of our lives right now, I have found ways I can still use it for good – especially when it comes to physical activity.
Throughout this past year, I have found that my optimism and overall motivation has decreased significantly, as school seems trivial compared to the profound challenges currently facing the world. My future seems bleak amidst the labor crisis surrounding employment opportunities as well as my inability to connect with others. I first noticed this shift in my mental health and mindset when completing a paper for a policy class. I found myself asking questions like, “Why is this little assignment even important when the world is facing such great challenges and hurting so much?” or “Will this paper even mean anything?” These largely negative existential questions made it difficult to write, but as I worked, I developed tactics to address these questions and the feelings behind them.
Somewhere in this year of quarantine, I went from just casually using social media to being a full on addict. Between Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram, my attention span was totally shot as notifications, dings, and buzzes pulled me away from class, homework, and even sleep. After a few months, I’d become a master at logging onto Zoom calls with half my attention and getting by with only half a night’s rest.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to learn how important sleep was for my basic functioning. In high school and early college, I found it difficult to get myself to go to sleep at a reasonable time, usually due to chatting late into the night with friends. I remember being very proud of being able to hightail it out of bed and plop down in my morning class in less than ten minutes. I did go to class, which is what I took to be some measure of success. But I certainly wasn’t enjoying my time rushing, and I certainly wasn’t enjoying how lost I was in class due to still being groggy.
Once upon a time, I had to defend the “prospectus” or plan for my dissertation to my committee members. I spent many months researching, drafting, and revising my prospectus. I focused on making my ideas clear. I memorized the main points of my argument. When my prospectus defense began, I shared with excitement everything I had learned and planned to do. And the first question a committee member asked me in response was: “So… what’s your dissertation about?”
“We’re all in this together” is so very true even as it seems we are so very far apart, tucked into our various new paths. It’s hard for us to see this though. Even in the before times, pre-COVID-19 and quarantine, I often wished I could give the students I worked with at the Learning Center a peak at the bird’s eye view I had through coaching: we are all going through a lot. Like, so very much. All of the time.
Every night before going to bed, I write down two things I’m grateful for that day in a small, smooth notebook gifted to me by my German “sister.” Growing up as an only child, I relished the year that my family hosted an exchange student from Bielefeld, Germany. Stefanie has always encouraged my writing practice by supplying me with numerous notebooks and pens over the years. This one was supposed to be for documenting trips and travels (we had always imagined taking one together), but, since traveling is far from my mind these days, it has served as the perfect gratitude journal.
We coaches at the Writing and Learning Center wanted to give a bit of insight into how all of us write and learn. To start off our blog, I wanted to write about what life is like for me in this current moment, as a senior, a writing coach, and a full-time student doing life from home. It’s bound to get a bit messy, but so it is these days. We’re all in this together.