I was sitting in my graduate writing workshop when the email from Miami University’s president’s email came in. It was one of those moments in life I will likely never forget; like when the space shuttle Challenger exploded (and I was sitting in the living room with my mom watching the white smoke streaks on TV) or when 9-11 happened (and I was standing on a metro platform in Madrid, Spain when a nice Irish man told me the towers “disappeared”). In this case, the people in the room, the chair in which I was sitting, the mild overcast weather outside are all stuck in my memory. I expect I will remember all of these things as we journey through the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and take and teach our university classes remotely.
First it was University of Washington. Stanford was close behind. The day we decided to close, Ohio State had made the call earlier that morning. It was only a matter of time before our domino fell in line.
Of course, this is a recent memory. Despite feeling like this was all many weeks ago, it has only been two days. Unlike the other events that stick in my memory, I haven’t felt panic yet. Perhaps it’s because the deluge of emails I’ve received from well-meaning professors and university administration all saying “don’t panic”.
I doubt it.
Like the other events, this has been unpredictable. It has been life-changing. It has included death. It has been sad, devastating, and frustrating. It has shown the tendency for good humans innately have–a theory by the famed psychologist Carl Rogers. It has demonstrated how humans can work together: teams of faculty are in place to assist instructors, resources are being shared, and my fellow grad students are sharing ideas of how to go offline with assignments and knowledge on how computer technologies work. Most importantly, we are all in this together, and I can feel the power behind me.
But what is different for me is the lack of dread. It’s a lack of fearing what’s next. It’s an absence of the anxiety that typically sets in when an unexpected, life-changing event occurs.
Perhaps what set this this event apart is that it has come post Evelyn’s birth. Post the shock of knowing she would be born (unexpectedly) five weeks early. Post spending scary days and nights in the neonatal intensive care unit. Post bringing home a three-pound baby and being expected to keep her alive. Post having our worlds turned on end. Post not being prepared with a lack of preemie diapers, clothing, formula, breastmilk. Post not having finished all my paperwork with Human Resources at work to secure my maternity leave.
Post knowing I had survived despite it all.
Post knowing that I actually thrived.
Post learning that sometimes what I think I want the least is actually an offer to grow the most.
So, in light of the recent changes to our lives: the travel cancellations, the school closings, the field trips postponed, the excessive hand washing and refusal to touch just about anything, I know that this disruption will be okay. I’ll be okay. My grad student friends (and all the others out there) will be okay. My students will be okay. My husband and daughter will be okay.
We may all be disappointed, frustrated, and angry.
But as long as we take care of each other, take one second at a time, and stay healthy, we’ll be okay.