I’m not going to lie … I’ve been a mess of emotions the past few days with the COVID-19 situation changing virtually by the second.
I think it’s one thing to feel the impact as you respond with concern and compassion to events happening across the globe … in another part of the country … somewhere else around the state … a few towns away from you. But when chaos is unfolding in your own backyard, stuff starts to get real – and you process and manage that concern a little differently.
And while no one in my family is sick and we’re doing what we can to limit exposure, the feeling of disconnect, disorientation and disarray has felt very real as classes were moved online, social events are cancelled and the day-to-day routine I’ve grown accustomed to has turned upside down and sideways. I started feeling some depression sneak in last night – and I’ve been wrestling with it ever since. But something was helpful to me as I started reflecting on these emotions … and maybe this thought will be helpful to you in some way too.
A few weeks ago, Cullen and Brooklyn gave our family nifty keychains made of purple beads in the shape of a fish. My keys are almost always clipped to my belt loop (thanks for that Paul Harwell), so my little fish is always dangling at my hip. I notice it all throughout the day – and it makes me smile.
Today I thought about that little fish … and how I feel a little like one myself. There’s this big new pond I’m swimming in right now, filled with a lot of uncertainty and change. I miss the comfy pond I was swimming in just a few days ago … but I’m not there anymore. As the depression and frustration and other emotions flood my mind, it’s easy to want to swim downward and bury myself in the muck and mire at the bottom of this new pond. But you can’t hide your head forever … life just isn’t meant to be lived that way. Eventually, you’ve got to get those fins and gills back out there and make this new pond your own.
This is a lot like any new season of life, whether it’s heading off to college, taking that big new job, starting a family or whatever new adventure you’re taking on. We’re always going to find ourselves swimming in a new pond, either by choice or by circumstance. NO matter how you got there, one thing you CAN control is how you respond.
Last night, bummed and feeling a little hopeless, it was comfortable to bury myself in the murky depths with a bag of peanut butter M&Ms for comfort. But when I woke up this morning and started getting ready for work, my thoughts turned to my family … my kids … my colleagues … my team members … the students I engage with … people who know, care about and share the journey with me. We depend on one another and look to each other for hope and strength. We learn from one another and take cues on how to respond from each other.
So today, even though the new pond is uncomfortable, I chose to swim a little higher, paddle a little faster and stretch my fins a little wider. I don’t want the Coronavirus to be our new norm, of course, but I do think this situation will stretch us and cause us to adapt – long-term and for the better.
And as a namesake and professional who gets the joy and honor of working with new college students each and every semester … I hope for that same tenacity and resilience for students who find themselves the fish in a big, new pond.
May we all have the courage to swim fast and free wherever the current takes us!