02 September 2020

Welcome, Baby SY2021

In the land of school data, years are always denoted by when they end. So while most people are thinking of September to June as the "2020 - 2021" school year (SY), I will continually be living with SY2021. I'm okay with that.

It's been three months since I posted here. The end of SY2020. Time has been such an odd concept over the last several months. June feels like forever ago, and yet it has not been a "Time flies when you're having fun!" sort of situation. I have a hard time accounting for my summer. Work never really ended. I had 10 non-contract days off in July, but had been asked not to take any vacation days this summer because it was anticipated there would so much work to do to carve a path for this year. While that didn't turn out to be the case until the last few weeks, it's still meant a summer at home in front of a screen. And the start of a school year in front of one, too.

I haven't gone back to the office in nearly six months. I drop in for an hour here or there to print needed documents or sign paperwork or tend to other business that can't be handled another way. Most of the people in my office have been there for the entire closure, having claimed they are "essential." I can't say that I necessarily agree with their assessment...as their explanations have more to do with family issues or a lack of self-discipline to actually work while at home...but I do not object to that. They have made their choice, just as I have made mine. The biggest stumbling block to my return is that the people in my office are unsafe. They decided that they don't have to wear masks or socially distance because they don't want to. Our boss is fine with all of this. For the two of us who have been home for months, we are not allowed to have even four hours of protected time a week to go in. I've asked several times to no avail. And yet, I am quite happy at home and have stopped pushing this issue.

The outside world feels like a dumpster fire in so many ways. But in my little space, I am safe and things are happening. I love my new schedule. I haven't set my alarm clock since March. I wake up naturally and am still at work at 6, per usual. I love knowing there is a pot of coffee downstairs. I love the view from my window...all the rhythms of the day, from the nurse who comes home from her overnight shift at 6:30 am, to the various joggers, to the afternoons with families out walking, and so on. I've watched the leafless trees turn green as the Spring came, and no doubt I will see all those leaves fall in the next several weeks. I've loved the lengthening of the days and now I am enjoying turning on the chandelier over my desk because the days are growing shorter. I love going out to my car and finding it tangled in cobwebs under the carport. I love walking to the post office at lunch or picking up my once-a-week takeout (Tuna Melt Thursday!). I love taking a break and being able to start the dishwasher or take out the trash. I love being able to make pancakes on a work day, just because I want them and I don't have to wait for the weekend to treat myself. I love having flexibility to make all the parts of my life work in a more harmonious way.

And I am rediscovering things, too. I like bbq potato chips. Haven't had them in years, but picked up a bag recently and it was such a treat. I've tried all sorts of ice creams. I've been working my way through my stash of cocktail napkins and party plates. Why not? And, oh, all the chances to go through my virtual recipe box and retry all sorts of comfort foods my previous self had loved. And all those hair and beauty products have been put to use, too. Not that anyone can see me, but why save them for that? I'm worth it. I've organized storage spaces and, after finally realizing that there is no interest in accommodating what I need to be brought back to the district office, I finally indulged in a makeover for the home one. With this task, I've gotten some old favourites out of storage to view and enjoy. A little electric fireplace is on order to keep the space warm while I work in the colder days to come. I feel like this pandemic has forced me to excavate some pieces of myself while I finely chisel others. I like this adventure...and I refuse to feel guilty about that.

None of us are the same people we were in February. We've seen some shit. I am extraordinarily privileged with the life I have: I have a job, I have money in the bank, I (mostly) have my health, and I have a safe place to live. I feel like the original uncertainty that was with me about...everything...held me back from seeing all the opportunities to experience and re-experience. But I am embracing them now. I am sorry that the people in my office won't go on this same journey. In their attempt to pretend things are "normal," they are missing the opportunity of a lifetime. To be sure, there are things I miss...like getting to sit in a bar and have a beer, go to brunch with friends, see a movie in a theatre, or not continually worry about catching a deadly virus just because I went to buy groceries. It's not enough to make me wish it all back. And maybe that's the bottom line: This isn't an either/or situation...it's a both/and. It's completely all right to miss some things from the pre-pandemic world, but to assume the Now has nothing to offer seems disgraceful and cowardly.

School will be different this year. That's okay. We will figure it out. Some families will disengage from school or find their own paths forward. This, too, is okay. I do not ascribe to any claim that students will "fall behind." Behind what or whom? We will reach and teach them where they are and move forward from there. Nothing is the same, and there is cause to grieve and feel anxious. There is also the chance to slow down or stop doing things because we've always done them a certain way. We can feel sad and we can build at the same time. There's space for both.

And so, Baby New Year, I can't even guess what you might have in store. But I am excited for your arrival just the same. I will try to stay open to all the lessons you might have to teach me. I hope I am ready. And, SY2020, thank you for proverbial hindsight. The world outside might be falling apart, but you were the year that made me whole.