A handful of days ago, I was sitting in a small clinic in my neighborhood waiting for a TB test. I was dutifully wearing my mask, and I was hyperventilating. The young woman assigned to give me my test was casually making small talk with me, waiting for me to calm down. She was being so patient.
“Why don’t you take your mask off for a second?” She asked.
“No, no, no,” I replied through tears. “I don’t feel comfortable with that. I don’t want to risk spreading anything. Or getting anything.”
She continued to wait. She asked why I needed a TB test (I’m a teacher who works in school–we’re virtual now, though I don’t know how the heck I’m going to go into a school with this mask issue). I told her I was an elementary education graduate student at a DC university. “Oh, I’d like to go there to get a master’s in public health!”
Her small talk really did help. I was eventually calm enough for her to take the test, and I was out the door in a matter of minutes, now with a snot-filled, soggy mask (do you know how gross it is to cry in a mask? If you haven’t had the joy of experiencing it, it’s gross). Yet, I felt embarrassed and shameful. Despite the patience the young woman showed me, I don’t consider it my finest moment that she had to wait for my body to calm down before she could administer a simple medical test due to my mask issues in the midst of this global pandemic.
The best thing you can do is master the chaos in you. You are not thrown into the fire, you are the fire.
5 MONTHS ON THE ALIEN PLANET.
5 months since DC schools shut their doors on March 13. 5 Months since Corona turned the U.S. upside down.
Can you believe it?
Part of me feels like I’ve been cheated of half a year of my life–it can’t be August, yet–I didn’t get to properly finish my school year off with my 4th grade kiddos (The Zoom date goodbye party didn’t feel official enough). I haven’t been to my grad school campus since March (I miss you, Foggy Bottom!). I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting my neighborhood pool at all this summer (Maybe next year, Banneker???). I haven’t nursed a latte at local coffee shop whilst doing homework in months. And visits to the grocery store now include 5 minutes of nearly non-stop hyperventilation as I dutifully, though not happily, cover my face (because, yes, mask anxiety is still real) What is this? What a crap year of missed opportunities and anxiety inducing safety measures. THANKS CORONA.
I am grieving for my home state. I feel no anger or fear. Just grief.
I have two thoughts:
1. People who think one person can’t make a difference haven’t seen the image of Derek Chauvin kneeling on a panicked George Floyd’s neck. One person can make a difference…for better or for worse. This is why I’m a teacher, because the next generations needs to understand that the way they move through the world as individuals matters so incredibly much.
2. To the rioters of Minneapolis: fighting fire with fire is never constructive. Why are you decimating the city? Such a beautiful, artsy, unique, lake filled city? There is no other Minneapolis out there. You are destroying a place that is uniquely Minnesota, and I grieve for that.
— — —
Unfortunately, George Floyd’s story isn’t new. It hits close to home, because it’s happening in my home state. I think the fact that the incident was recorded, that there is physical evidence of it happening, brings the incident to life, makes it seem more real. I also find the nature of the crime itself very unsettling: how can one human kneel on another human’s neck for a number of minutes, knowing full well that the other person is in pain? This is behavior that is sadistic in nature, and I find it hard to swallow that such behavior happened in a city I know and love. Yet, I know well enough that this isn’t an isolated incident. At the end of the day, whether a black man is shot or choked to death by American law enforcement, it’s all wrong, and it shouldn’t be happening. We need more faith and trust in our black men in America. Part of me fears for the black boys I’ve taught–that I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and knowing. This is the society we’re going to spit them out into?
They deserve better. We all deserve better. Senseless violence helps no one.
Change needs to happen. Why isn’t it happening? I’ve been thinking about the race riots of 1968 and wonder–is this 1968 all over again? We need to turn our collective anger and grief into something constructive, because how we’re responding now isn’t constructive. I wonder, is the Coronavirus making us lose our wits? In the words of a good friend, after over two months of staying at home and sheltering in place, “George Floyd is the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The mayor of Washington, DC, a city 1,100 miles away from Minneapolis, Minnesota, issued a city-wide curfew last night due to a growing concern about violent protests. Many other states and cities have issued similar curfews and/or states of emergency. We are a nation that is broken. Coronavirus or not, systemic racism is destroying this country, chipping away at any dignity it holds. This is not okay.
— — —
I know that you are angry and grieving. I know that the whole nation is angry and grieving, but George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer in your backyard–it’s so devastatingly close to home. Know that I’m thinking of you, and that I hope you can heal in time. Don’t forget all that you are made of, all the reasons you are a city to love and believe in. This too shall pass. We cannot change what happened to George Floyd, but I do hope we as a nation can move into a better future where black men aren’t murdered on the streets in cold blood by the police officers who are supposed to ensure the safety of all citizens.
When I was a baby, I hated pacifiers. My parents say that the moment they put one in my mouth, I’d spit it across the room. My mom claims I could make those pacifiers fly far. Olympic gold medal far (or maybe my head is getting a bit big in considering my supposed infant capabilities). My parents gave up trying with the pacifier eventually. There was no way I was keeping one in my mouth.
I’ve been thinking about infant-Britta’s dislike of pacifiers a lot lately. It’s a useful comparison to the present. Why? Because upon donning a mask in these pandemic days, I usually find myself angrily desiring to tear it off my face and scream out my disgust as I fling it across the room in a way that is only socially acceptable in young children throwing temper tantrums. To put it bluntly, I hate masks. I don’t say that in a playful, “this is a mildly uncomfortable hatred but I’ll take one for the team” kind of way. Nope. This is full blown, anger fueled hatred. I despise masks. I loathe masks. In the days of COVID-19, I want to f-ing burn all the masks. Even the cute homemade ones. #sorrynotsorry cute homemade mask makers. I don’t discriminate in my hatred.
I’ve been trying to grapple with this anger in the past few weeks, because I know enough about psychology to know that anger is usually a mask–no pun intended–for deep pain. I’m not a licensed psychologist, mind you, so please don’t take my armchair psychology as gold. I am, however, a teacher, and I do think that gives me some brownie points in Basic Understanding of the Human Psyche 101.
So yes, I hate masks. And I’m angry about masks. And last weekend, as I donned my required mask before heading into the grocery store, my anger abruptly dissolved into full blown anxiety as I started hyperventilating…
It’s day 25 on the alien planet. I counted. 25 days since DC Public Schools announced their temporary closure. 25 Days since I stopped living in denial about the reality of COVID-19. As long as I had work to get up and go to everyday, I could keep telling myself that my world was still normal. Sure, COVID had put China on lock down over a month prior–as an online ESL teacher, I felt I was more aware of this than others, given that I was seeing first hand how the lock down was affecting my own students during each of our classes together. Sure, COVID was making its presence known on the West Coast of the United States, particularly in Washington State. Sure, there were a few confirmed cases of in DC and the surrounding area…but I was still getting up and going to work and going about my daily life as usual, and that made my life feel normal, unaffected by this illness that was ravaging the lives of so many. There were a few signs of concern here and there–the Sunday prior (my birthday of all days), I was refused a for-here cup at a coffee shop; due to concerns about the virus, the coffee shop in question was only giving its customers disposable cups. It had become more common place to see friends and acquaintances and hear, “Are you good to hug?” before embracing. The reminder to wash hands and be more vigilant about cleanliness was everywhere–on the Metro, at work, on the internet. Yet, until DC schools announced their closure on March 13, I was still happily living in denial.
Denial is easier than acceptance, of course. It’s why it’s so challenging for teachers to convince some parents that their child actually has a problem, whether it be a behavioral issue or a learning disorder. I thought I was too smart for denial, too aware of myself and the world around me. Yet, here I was, knee deep into my own denial about COVID.
The past few weeks, then, have been a journey towards acceptance. Accepting where I am in life–with COVID and with other aspects of myself as well. It’s been realizing that sometimes I focus so damn much on the positive that I fail to see the reality sitting right in front of me. It’s been learning to understand that as beneficial as positivity is in life–I’m an optimist for a reason, after all–sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back and take stock of the whole picture. To pay attention to the details, the facts spelling out the nature of our reality. I’ve learned in the past few weeks that positivity should be balanced and well-rounded. A healthy positivity comes from embracing and acknowledging the negative and still choosing to find the light in the world.
Since my last post six months ago, I’ve moved to a bigger room in my house, gotten a[nother]new housemate (the fourth in the course of the year…hoping the current peeps stick around for a bit ’cause house mate searching is stressful), said goodbye to my first fourth grade class as an assistant teacher, spent a lot of summer time at the pool, wrote 8,000+ words in what I hope will become a novel (and logged many hours at local coffee shops in the process), said hello to my second group of fourth graders as an assistant teacher, and started grad school. I also got to celebrate my grandparent’s 60th anniversary over Labor Day weekend in September in Iowa with my mom’s side of the family. It was incredibly special, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to travel across the country to spend time with my family during such a momentous occasion. It’s all been very good, and I’m very happy where I’m at right now, but it’s also been a challenge. Learning to balance working full time with school and school work has been a learning curve.
Since I posted my 2018 recap, a lot has happened. I traveled to Germany, France, and the Czech Republic over the Christmas holiday, a much needed two week break. It was the first time I’d taken more than a week off from VIPKid since I started working at VIPKid and oh lordy was it lovely. With VIPKid, it’s so easy to get into the mindset that I should always be working, because I can work anywhere as long as I have computer and internet. I’m so glad I chose to take time off…something I wish I would have done last month while on spring break. Unfortunately, the bug to keep working got me then. In Europe, I enjoyed spending a lot of time with my family, I got to see my German friend for an afternoon coffee break (she took a break from working on her master’s thesis, which was due days after we met, to see me), and I got to cross two new countries, France and the Czech Republic, off my list. I’m officially in love with Prague, which is on my list of places to return to to explore more. Continue reading “A Few Quick Updates: Spring 2019”
At the beginning of the year, I christened 2018 The Adventurous Year.
I didn’t exactly know what that meant at the time, but I knew it would be good.
There were a couple major wins in 2018, mainly moving out of a challenging and uncomfortable living situation to a place I actually like love, and getting a full-time job in line with my career goals. I also went above and beyond my reading goals for this year. After multiple years in a row of lackluster reading, I vowed to read 30 books in 2018. When I realized that I would complete this goal by mid-summer, I increased my goal to 45 books.
While the trip my German friend and I were talking about going on to South Africa fell through early on in the year (when I woke up from my day dreaming slumber and actually looked at my bank account to realize how NOT FEASIBLE THAT WAS on a substitute teacher who isn’t called in everyday’s pay grade), I was able to plan a trip closer to home with her. I finally got to see New York City, a place I’d been wanting to go to for years, and I also got to show her around my adopted city.
My parents visited DC a couple of times this year and my brother was in town for multiple weeks near the beginning of the year for work–we were able to spend some time together, and he took me out to dinner for my birthday. Aside from my German friend spending a week with me in DC, I also got to host one of my closest high school Continue reading “2018, In Review”
We had a new housemate move in on August 1 (after an exhausting search), and I’ve been slowly adjusting to the new dynamic. While it’s nice to no longer be the house newbie (not that anybody in my house is paying attention), adjusting to change is always a slow process for me. I had just gotten used to our dynamic after my May 1st move in when one of my housemates announced he was moving for grad school. Ah, but we must go with the flow of things. We snagged a fellow Midwesterner to fill the room, and it’s been good thus far.
Professionally, I started a full-time job last week. It’s been a bit jarring, since I haven’t worked full time in over a year, but I’m excited…and I’m also grateful for the steady income that will soon be coming in. Subbing, while fruitful, was not always a financially dependable endeavor! I’ve joined the staff at a school I subbed at frequently last year. It’s been great, because I already feel comfortable at the school, I know a lot of the staff, and I know a lot of the students. Staff PD was last week, which meant a lot of sitting and listening to presenters and PAPERWORK. I’ll be the teacher’s assistant in fourth grade English Language Arts. So far, I really like my fourth grade team, and I think the lead ELA teacher and I will work well together. I’m so excited to learn and grow as an educator. I wanted to spend at least one year in a classroom (as opposed to moving around to multiple different classrooms as a sub) before heading to grad school, so I’m right where I want to be. School starts today, and I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the swarm of excited fourth graders that I’ll have to maneuver come 8:00 am.
August has been change, but it’s been good. I’m so grateful to be where I am right now. Life feels good. The last couple years have been incredibly challenging, and while I believe all those challenges were needed for my personal growth, I finally feel like I’m in a really good place. A place where I want to be, as opposed to a place where I’m Continue reading “Embracing Change, Savoring the Present”
I met my German friend in Spanish class when I was fourteen, the September of my freshman year of high school. After spending the first 9 years of my schooling at a small, private Catholic school where the majority of the 50 students in my eighth grade class had shared those 9 years with me, starting off at a large public high school was intimidating, especially for an introvert like me. The first semester of high school, I clung to a fellow introvert and friend from my parochial school–we were essentially attached at the hip. With the exception of my German friend, who was my first new high school friend, it wasn’t until second semester when I started to expand my horizons and develop more friendships. My German friend and I got to know each other and spent a lot of time with each other in between classes. Unfortunately, her U.S. visa was only valid for three months rather than the typical year that high school exchange students spend abroad, and she was back to Germany in December.
We managed to keep in touch in spite of what we both viewed as her premature departure from the U.S. This was before I had a Facebook (that came later on during my Freshman year, and we did connect there eventually), but we e-mailed each other and had each other’s street addresses. We both had (and still have) an affinity for letter writing, and we would send letters and postcards to each other. She sent me multiple postcards from her travels around Europe, and once a big box of German Chocolates. When I started college, I sent her a pair of mittens with my university’s logo emblazoned on them. We even had an opportunity to see each other, albeit briefly, when I toured Germany with my high school band in 2011. Continue reading “On Cross-Cultural (and Continent) Friendships”