I found myself feeling a little sad after the holidays knowing that winter break was ending and we all would be heading back to work. I was so grateful to have spent time truly unwinding after what was undoubtedly the most stressful semester of most of our professional careers, and fully utilized the opportunity to catch up on reading, cooking and baking, taking walks in the park, hanging out with my wife, and cuddling in cozy sweatpants and fuzzy blankets with our pets.
It was just a few days into the spring semester when the news broke of what was happening in our nation’s capital, and that “ease into 2021” vibe went flying out the window. I watched the coverage for a long time that evening, alternating between feeling numb, enraged, disgusted, sad and afraid. I can only imagine how unsettling this was to many of you, as it was for me. Not only is it shocking and unthinkable for our democracy to be rattled as it was, but it illuminated the stark difference in responses from leadership and law enforcement to the Black Lives Matter protests of this past summer, and to these dangerous “demonstrations.”
It is clear that the work ahead is long and difficult, to bridge political divides and unify the nation, and to allow for true reconciliation and healing from generations of racial injustices, which are not entirely separate issues, in my opinion. And each of us, no matter what level of positional authority we hold, have a responsibility to challenge hateful rhetoric and condemn violence, while also upholding freedom of speech and creating space for productive dialogue on our campuses. And yes, that is a lot to hold.
I say all of this knowing that we are all still carrying the immense weight of living and working through a global pandemic, feeling the strain and impact that COVID-19 has had on us all, including disproportionately impacting students and colleagues of color, and seeing tensions in our country rise to an all time high. Just take a moment and sit with that, because that is some seriously heavy stuff. And then, when you are able and in whatever ways make sense for you, I encourage you to reach out if you need to talk, take some time if you need space to process, or offer support to others who may be struggling to digest these happenings, if you are willing.
Finally, I’ve recently begun a new practice in 2021 that I wanted to offer for your consideration. These small daily tasks have helped me to find motivation when energy is low, to gain perspective on challenging days, and to feel hopefulness when times are tough. By no means is this a cure-all, but it has been a helpful practice for me as I entered the new year and as I’ve begun to put 2020 in my rearview:
- Set a goal for yourself at the beginning of each day. It can be something so small – it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it is something that is reasonable for you to accomplish and that you will feel good about crossing off your list. Use this as a way to maintain morale and to hold yourself accountable to your work.
- Reach out to a colleague. Maybe it is someone at your current institution that you haven’t seen in a while – invite them to a virtual coffee date to catch up. Or, maybe it is a colleague at a nearby institution doing similar work as you – check in with them about plans for spring and start building excitement about the semester ahead. This is so important to nurturing your professional networks, and serves as a helpful reminder that we are not alone.
- In whatever ways you can – continue to focus on your own wellness. Although we all have much to be thankful for in bringing 2020 to a close, we still have a long way to go until we are all back on campus regularly, and our students still require just as much (if not more) support as ever. Remember to do what you can for self-care in order to “put our own oxygen masks on first.”
Hang in there, y’all. And if you have any reflections, perspectives or tips for 2021, I’d love to hear them!