21 March 2020

0 for lack of an ending

at the end of every semester, there is this enormous wave of grief.

in my last two years of teaching, i've come to account for it and recognize it and allow for it and prepare myself, primarily with the end goal of not openly weeping in our final class.

my therapists have always been quick to point out how much i hate endings. how much i'd rather live with an open ending and a lack of closure than a proper ending that actually ends it all.

the end has, obviously, come early this year.

though, also, not really because we're all still in it for one more month, so perhaps this is actually my ending of preference? time will tell.

anyway, these 60 people are still in my life. i am still communicating with them multiple times a day, still trying to make small contribution to getting them through all this, even as i mourn the fact that we will never be in the same room again as we once were.

class, as we knew it, is over. that is, for sure, at an end.

again, such a fucking obvious and necessary reality, but nonetheless a reality that brings grief.

we are all in this and we are all experiencing our different versions of it, so i'm not trying to make out that i'm any different from anyone else. i'm know i'm not.

rather, i'm just trying to acknowledge the new contours of life.

i'm someone who films myself and close captions my videos and puts them on youtube now.

DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.

two weeks ago, i would've been like, oline, wtf. now, there's a whole work flow that's popped up around this process, to give it structure.

first, i write the copy for the "monday" class, the "teaching part," where we all are ostensibly engaged in the act of Learning New Things. (a colleague pointed out that we are in a time where everything under the sun is New Knowledge; the department head said they "hope teaching is happening" and acknowledged that "teaching happening" is the bar at which we should presently pitch our expectations.)

then i write the galvanizing message, where the pastoral care part happens and i say for the 1000th time that the syllabus is gone, grades are going soon, it's ok to feel whatever you feel, and we're all just going to write and seize whatever small pleasures we can in this moment.

then i cry.

then i field multiple emails from students worried about their grades.

then i cry again.

then, once i'm confident i can relay another galvanizing message on video without crying, i shower and wash my hair, put on make-up, get dressed, and record myself alone in my apartment talking to my 60 students. looking deep into the eyes of the camera (simulating eye contact in a way i was annoyingly never able to in skype interviews), i pretend to be my normal self and remind them the syllabus is gone, grades are going soon, it's ok to feel whatever you feel, and we're all just going to write and seize whatever small pleasures we can in this moment. and then i give them a vocabulary word for the day.

the semester is over, but not quite.

life as we knew it is over, but not quite.

there are glimmers, mercifully, to be found in it's newly warped ways.

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