One Foot In Front Of The Other

It’s Monday, November 2nd. Today begins week 8 of the 12-week fall 2020 semester here at the University of Guelph. The exhaustion I felt four weeks ago has not let up. Everything, everything, absolutely everything is challenging in a way that I have never quite experienced before. I am raw and tired and drained, and like most everyone, I am in need of respite.

I am worried. I am worried about the rest of the semester, about the students in my class who are trying to manage courses and assignments in such uncertain and scary times. I worry for their mental health, their physical health, and their safety. I worry about the safety and health of my family and friends.

I am incredibly nervous about what’s going to happen during tomorrow’s election in the United States, and what happens after it. I do not know how I will deal with another four years of the current administration. I do not know how I will handle what happens if he is re-elected.

Every atom of my being seems to be bouncing between fight or flight, vibrating restlessly and constantly. What little sleep I get isn’t restful. Every day feels like a slog, like my thoughts are trying and failing to find a footing. Every email I receive from anyone in administration asking me for one more thing, for one more minute of my time, for one more piece of me, chips away at my resiliency further – to the point where I’m near tears when I read an email asking me to do one more thing.

And with every conversation I have with my colleagues and the students in my classes, I realize that I’m not alone. It’s as if the entire world has fallen into a dark pit and is struggling to make sense of it – and yet we continue to behave as if this is normal.

As I wrote previously, none of what we are experiencing is normal. None of this is normal. None of it.

So it makes sense that we are struggling with it – even eight months after the pandemic was declared. Of course, knowing this and integrating it into my thought process – our thought process – takes time and effort. And with both at a premium these days, we’re left knowing what we should do but in many cases incapable of doing it.

And this dear friends is why we need each other. Because this is the part of the marathon where we are all exhausted and tired, and even though we’ve run a good race to this point we may feel like we want to throw in the towel.

The beauty of the marathon is the community of people who get you through it. The strangers cheering you on from the sidelines, the runners who have been with you throughout the race. Just when you think you don’t have anything left in the tank, someone hoots or hollers or smiles or does any number of simple things that make you know it’s possible to finish the race.

We need to be that for each other as we come into the final stretch of this semester. We need to be there cheering each other on. And even though we might not finish the race in the way we necessarily envisioned it, we need to cheer ourselves on regardless.

I wrote earlier this semester that we’ll get through this together. Now is the time. Talk to the students in your labs and classes. Update their expectations and your expectations. Make sure they know that they can do it, and give them the energy they need. Cheer them on.

And importantly, be there for each other. Reach out to your colleagues, to your family, to your friends. Remind the people in your life that we can do this. Use their reminders to keep you moving along.

One foot in front of the other, we will finish this race together.

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