I have lost count of what day of ‘shelter at home’ this is. Everything has blurred together in a maze of worry, masks, and social isolation. I have nothing to complain about; there are people fighting on the COVID-19 frontlines, risking their lives to care for the sick and to keep society going. All I have to do is stay home, do my job online, and stay hopeful. But…I am missing what was, as I’m sure so many are.
This week, while still young, has been a mixture of highs and lows. Yesterday I presented a webinar for my clarinet maker that was broadcast nationally. It was so strange to re-embrace the professional me, putting on makeup and dressing up for the first time in over a month, to talk about pedagogy with other music colleagues. I have spent the past weeks dressing casually to teach my students online, often wearing a nice top and then yoga pants and sneakers on the bottom, getting into jammies or yard work clothes as soon as the teaching day ended, one day bleeding into the next.
I love teaching my students, but connectivity issues for several students have made teaching a challenge for all of us. The hardest part has been seeing some of them struggle with the isolation from their friends and university life and being thrust into online instruction mid-semester. They are wonderful young people, though, all trying their best to do a good job and keep moving forward as best they can. I so miss working with them face-to-face, getting to see them in the music building throughout the week.
We had a Zoom faculty meeting today, our first since everything changed. When I saw the faces of my colleagues on the screen, I felt the tears well up and I was unable to say a word throughout the entire meeting, overwhelmed with emotion seeing my wonderful, passionate, amazing friends and colleagues. I miss them. I miss being in our wonderfully hectic music building, teaching and making music with them. Seeing my friend and our Chair lead the meeting and discuss the difficulties we face just days after losing his father…I felt such sadness for him and gratitude for his strong leadership. Each of us are facing our own struggles right now, but we have worked hard to build our program, and we will work hard together to keep it all going for our students, no matter what.
I don’t know when things will return to normal, and I don’t know what the new normal will look like. I have to keep believing that something good will come from all of this, that the hardships so many are facing will have meaning and ultimately make a difference. I’m hoping we learn and grow from this time, that we think more about each other other and the importance of our connection. I don’t know the answers or what the outcome will be, only that my heart hurts as it grieves for what was and for what may never be the same again. Maybe it will be even better, though. I am focusing all of my energies on that. Optimism will light the way through, even if it flickers on and off at times.