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The End of Time, Part 1

The title of this post is in reference to the final set of episodes of David Tennant as The Doctor and given my theme of using movie titles, television episode titles, and song titles - I thought it appropriate. This post is a multi-post attempt at reflecting on 2020. You can see the previous years' attempts here.

“This isn’t what I was expecting.”

“Well, then perhaps you were expecting too much!”

That exchange comes from my dimly lit memories of our high school acting classes and an exercise that has been indelibly inked in my mind for some twenty years. Those lines have stuck with me this year especially as I’ve been wrestling with how to start the process of reflecting on 2020 and how complicated it is to try and examine this year with logical and rational processes. I’ve sat at my desk in my living room contemplating different concepts, ideas, mediums, platforms, and thinking about how to outline how I was going to engage each with a unique perspective.

I quickly realized that was a lot of work to put into 2020 when it seems I’ve already put in plenty of work this year on my own through teaching and living - my bandwidth for that level of work has been exceeded and I’ve redlined the meter several times over. So I tossed the brainstorm out the window with the baby, the bathwater, and the kitchen sink. I waited, my brain doing some processing in the background of the last few weeks of remote learning before Winter Break, and decided I would tackle the task of terminating the testament of 2020 once I was free of my responsibilities.

That day has finally arrived. I threw some Jim Croce in the old Spotify and sat in my chair trying to determine when 2020 went south and why it’s felt like this year has just been like living like you’re riding on a train and it crashes and that’s your role in the movie, “Groundhog Day” and you can’t escape or break free no matter how hard you try. Somehow the train always finds you and the day ends flipping end over end in a train car. For us in our part of the country, that day started on March 13th, 2020. That was our last day in school. That afternoon, it was decided that we were closing school. We had a full week of school still to go before Spring Break, no less.

We never returned to in-person school that year.

You know the rest.  The insurmountable task of learning at a very brisk pace how to do remote learning, teaching, and engaging haunted us and taunted us from the early days of April to the last gasping days of May.  It wasn’t good for us as teachers, it wasn’t good for our students, it wasn’t good for our parents, and it wasn’t good for our community.  We crossed the line, but by any measurement, our race car was like the car in “The Blues Brothers” in that it immediately fell apart in dramatic fashion upon reaching its destination at Richard Daley Plaza.  We had reached one finish line in that they waved the checkered flag for us as teachers.  But that was only the beginning.

That summer is a blur for me in that I was moving from our middle school teaching 6th grade to the local alternative education high school campus.  I was responsible for designing each core English class and elective.  Beyond that, it was a terrible time for the rest of the county, state, and country.  Lockdown orders, rising cases, deaths, outbreaks, and not much hope was on the menu during this time. We metaphorically ate as best as we could but being in community had been recalled and in its place were Google Meet video calls, church services over Zoom, and not much travel outside of grocery stores, drugstores, and gas stations.  We were starving ourselves of the meat and potatoes of our humanity, and there wasn’t anything we could do aside from mask up, keep our distance, and hope that someday the light would shine again over a full table of heart and hope.

Part of why it feels like nothing good happened in 2020 is that so much of it was filled with the experiences that came to define living in this year. Ten months have been us as a community, county, state, country, and world strapped into a blacked-out rollercoaster ride with a nearly inhuman whiplash rating and more twists, turns, and shouts than a Chubby Checker song.  As we haltingly lurch towards 2021 we are all so very tired of opening, closing, canceling, opening, closing, locking down, and back again.  We’ve lived lifetimes in ten months and not many of us have known how to process, handle, or even manage the litany of stresses, responsibilities, and requirements that have been thrust upon our beleaguered shoulders.

From January to March seem so far away, and to be honest I don’t recall much of that time. So much of my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual energy has been dominated by these ten months, I’ve forgotten what life was like in that first part of 2020. There’s an additional layer for me - it was my second year of teaching 6th grade, and I was struggling in so many different ways with my professional path. The time we had spent together as teachers and students was not enough to cement our connection. It was a disheartening punch to the gut, and it was just another tarnishing element of my second year of teaching.

Looking back at my post from last year, it’s important to start the post mortem and examine the words I chose coming into 2020 along with their importance.  That post is here, but I’ll put the words down below to start the process.

Being humble. Practicing Kindness. To seek more than ever before.

Those are some powerful words, and I’ll be tackling them in the next post along with a discussion of other people’s words for 2020. There’ll be another post of looking forward to 2021 with a whole new set of words for me, and also sharing other folks' words as well.

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