Update: It's okay to not be okay

It's the beginning of a new semester and a new year; we all wish we were leaping with enthusiasm and energy into our new beginnings. In the wake of 2020, it's easy to forget that we are still in a pandemic and, to put it bluntly, sh*t is still f*cked up. In the last 24 hours, I've had students and loved ones tell me about breaking down crying, their first ever panic attack, and newfound and crippling insomnia. I've been through each of those experiences and I can empathize.

As far as our class goes, I want to state my priorities. People first, learning second, rules/bureaucracy last. (Thanks to my friend Vanessa for this framing https://vanessadennen.com/2020/03/16/people-first-content-second-technology-third/.) We're still in a pandemic and as far as I'm concerned that means maximum academic flexibility zone. If you need an extension, ask. If you need to take an incomplete, ask. If you want to try to do some extra credit later, let me know. I will think no less of you if you turn in something really drafty and tell me you don't want to improve it but just want it in the rearview mirror. I urge you to take care of your humanity (and take care of others') before you prioritize grades. I hinted that I might institute pop quizzes if people aren't doing the readings; I think this was a mistake and I'll promise you now that any quiz I might hand out will be either ungraded or make-uppable at any time. You are always welcome in class even if you haven't done your homework. Feel free to turn your camera off if you prefer, I am glad you are there regardless.

I want to reiterate three important ideas. First, you are enough. For many of us, academia makes us want to prove ourselves worthy but we're already worthy. Quoting from writer Erin Bahadur: "You are enough. There is no goal that you could ever achieve that will convince you that you are enough. If you don't already believe it before you get there, you still won't once you do." https://www.huffpost.com/entry/you-are-enough_1_b_7687616 Even when you are not okay, you are enough.

Secondly, this moment is hard but it is our lever, our crucible for becoming ourselves. A good friend gave me some advice she had heard from her therapist--you're either surviving, striving, or thriving, and you'll be miserable if you pretend you're in a different category than you are currently in. Sometimes, you will be just surviving, but this like all things is impermanent and will change. I really love this quote from the podcaster and artist Kirya Traber about two months into the pandemic: "I'm grateful for the growth that I've had before this moment, so that I feel stable and grounded enough to take this and all of the discomforts, and invite learning and growth from them." I love that she uses gratitude to focus on the gifts of past struggles, that she grounds herself in the experience of struggle right now (which is a hard time), and still is open to a path forward of growth. Audre Lorde one said "The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us — the poet — whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free." Feeling our joys and our traumas allows us to move into our next selves.

Third, nobody is alone. Many of us hide our struggles and trumpet an image of success that is fictional (instagram for teenagers, linkedin for careerists, and CV pissing contests for professors). We have our voices and we can use them authentically. And when we do we will often find love, support, and camaraderie we never expected. Call a counselor, call a friend, or offer a kindness. If you need an ear to bend, ask; I'm no therapist but I promise to be human first and professor second. I hope all of us can extend the same generosity to each other. We will get through this, and in the meantime, it's okay to not be okay. May you be happy, healthy, and may you find ease sooner than later.


Copyright 2021 Christopher Hoadley. Last updated 24 Mar 2021