The common injunction for this time of year – “I hope you had a good break” – feels even more hollow than usual.
My break consisted of, well, of exactly the same things as they have for the past 9 months: WFH, rare trips out to buy food or get some exercise, and a drip-drip of work (seriously, who negotiates major treaties up to Christmas Eve?).
As the kids observed, it hasn’t been particularly festive.
This matters partly because lots of people hoped that this was going to be a chance to get away from the burdens of this past year, but more because it means we enter the new year with a considerable overhang with which to contend.
Here in the UK, we’re going into our third cycle of lockdown, with huge uncertainty about either timelines or the detail of what is and isn’t possible/acceptable. Those of you living elsewhere might be escaping our particular version of “let’s role play policy-making on the hoof”, but doubtless you have your own difficulties to handle.
This is worth reflecting on, especially if you find yourself in an inter-semester gap. In our case, it’s assessment-only until February, so there’s a long period where even the vague rhythm of a ‘normal’ teaching week isn’t present.
If having family members regularly offering you cups of tea isn’t enough to sustain your community, then think about what you can do to address that.
And it does fall on you, because it falls on all of us: waiting for someone else to sort the shit out is not only likely to result in much delay, but also to lead to those someone elses getting annoyed that it’s somehow their job to do this.
So make a contribution to the common wealth: from each according to their means, etc., if you will.
That might be something big, like organising a stand-alone event, or something small, like dropping a colleague a line to check in with them. You might not think there’s anything to discuss, because you’ve all been sat on your backsides for months, but you’ll find plenty to chew over.
Build and maintain connections: I’m really happy I suggested regular coffee mornings with my department back in March, even (possibly, especially) when I can’t attend myself – it gives everyone a chance to keep the softer parts of our group operating.
Yes, it’s not like it used to be, but what are you going to do about that?
As with our evolving teaching practice, so too with our wider professional practice: the more we can lean into making the most of the changing situation we face, the more we can manage the pressures and strains that puts us under.
And the more we help each other, the more we can spread the load and share the burden.