In January 2020 I taught in Singapore, and I brought home a tin of Kuih Kapit, or Love Letter cookies, a traditional Lunar New Year treat. It was a large tin and the cookies kept well, so I brought them to my office at TC and nibbled on them with a cup of coffee during office hours or whenever I needed help to stay alert during afternoon meetings. I had a day’s worth of meetings on Thursday, March 5th, and I was especially grateful for the still generous supply of cookies left in the tin. That was the last time I was in my office.
Has your experience of time been like mine over the past year? Simultaneously fast and slow, with whole months passing by like mere moments, yet a single day feeling endless in its monotonousness and anxiety? It feels like just last week that I was enjoying those cookies. Yet, I can barely remember anything about the entire month of October.
I have heard from many of you that you are exhausted wrapping up assignments, exams, papers, and pressing priorities at work and at home. I know you are all looking forward to the semester’s end. I can relate. We surely all need a break, and especially a break from Zoom.
My brother (who is also a professor) and I have commiserated over the years about how tough the end of the fall semester can be, given the heavy workload and simultaneous need to prepare for the holidays. On a recent phone call, he told me he feels both excited and wistful about this semester ending, as he has enjoyed his students tremendously and it feels hard to say goodbye to them. I feel wistful for the same reason. Ending class in this virtual environment feels more starkly final somehow, absent the promise of bumping into this semester’s students on campus in the new year.
And yet, the wistfulness speaks to the real and rich learning community we have built in the S-OP program this fall. I am so proud of all of you for rising to the challenge of our shared task of learning in this virtual environment, of your embracing relentless ambiguity and opting for curiosity rather than judgement. We are still standing in the middle of the change curve. We still have much work to do in the face of the inextricable pandemics of Covid-19 and racial injustice. Yet, my experience working with you all this fall has only made me hopeful for our shared future. I am grateful for the break -- indeed, I need it. But I am excited to rejoin you in 2021 and to continue to make sense of the world together.
In my Group Dynamics course, we talk about ways to pay attention to what is under the surface in order to understand both the implicit and explicit processes of groups and systems. Sometimes, an ear worm, a song we can’t get out of our heads, reveals something that is just out of our awareness. The Counting Crows song, A Long December, has been my ear worm lately.
Here is a snippet of the lyrics:
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her
And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
I am holding on to the hopefulness of our shared work in the S-OP program community. Wishing each of you a restful, safe and joy-filled winter break. See you in 2021.
Sarah Brazaitis, PhD
MA Program Director
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