I don’t know about all of you, but Covid was ROUGH in the Cereal household. I was on a train on my way to Canada when I found out that the university I work for was going to shut down and move to entirely remote work. I got on the next train home and started frantically preparing my faculty members on how to quickly modify their classes. The next two weeks were a complete blur, and when I started to come out of that, I had to scramble to get them desks and iPads and all the supplies they would need to be successful at remote school. I also had to run around and find everything I would need to be able to successfully work from home. Pretty much all of March was intensely serious and scattered.
By mid-April we had hit a bit of a stride. The kids’ schools were doing the absolute best they could and my faculty was kicking butt teaching remotely. I was exhausted nearly all the time, but I didn’t really realize how much it was affecting me.
When the kids’ schools let out for summer in June, everything got worse. The kids had zero respect for my need for quiet during work, and mid way through June, I started my PhD program. I was also asked by my dean to take on additional work for another department. I accepted, knowing that it would be essential for my career trajectory. My days were spent on zoom meetings, and juggling two kids who were bored and tired of being cooped up at home. In July, I started feeling super tired all the time, which I attributed to Covid and school and work and everything.
September rolled around and the kids’ school announced that the year would start virtually. I was prepared for a year of at home school, and I came up with a solid schedule that while the kids were in virtual class, I was in my meetings and making sure that work was handled. I was basically trying to fit an entire day of work into a four hour block. I would often get back onto my computer in the evenings to try to do as much more work as I could. And then Oregon exploded with intense and widespread fires. For an entire 10 day period, the air quality was so bad that we couldn’t leave the house. The sky was blood red and there was ash all over everything. It was scary and incredibly depressing.
By December, I couldn’t get through a whole day without a nap, and I ended up taking four weeks of leave from my work to try to recover from the intense summer and fall we had just survived. I felt completely drained and completely done with everything. I spent my days off baking and watching Dr. Pol (I highly recommend this show for a relaxing background) and trying to chill out. I think I may have had a complete breakdown if I had not taken that time off. I was able to reset a bit and work to get a schedule that was reasonable and workable. I also saw my doctor several times and she was able to get me into a sleep specialist where I learned that I have a REM disorder, which basically means I wasn’t getting into REM until almost 5 am, so I was essentially getting no good sleep.
2021 has been just as crazy, but I am being kinder to myself, working harder to create space to do things that are both rewarding and calming. The kids went back to school in person in September this year, which was one of the best feelings for me. Their school is doing the most amazing job at mitigating the threat of covid and the kids love being back in school. I feel free when I get to drive into my office and see my co-workers and be in a space that is just for me. I was able to get onto a good sleep schedule that gets me to sleep earlier and I am finally getting good sleep. I do still feel like I (and everyone else) am still in survival mode, but it feels a little more manageable right now.
Covid is terrible. It has taken so much from so many of us. For parents, trying to get our kids through this has been ridiculously difficult. I really believe that this past year and a half will have lasting effects on all of us, from exhaustion, health issues, mental health issues, depression, etc. There is some solace in knowing that so many of us are feeling the same way, but we still have more to survive.