This is apparently the week when 9/10ths of my students suddenly fall apart and stop handing things in. I am chasing after them in e-mails and Slack messages, begging them to give me something that I can grade, please, because even a C- is better than a 0 for your GPA, I promise you. (And please don’t plagiarize even if you’re exhausted — I’d rather see a short paper in your own words than a full-length one that’s half-copied off the internet.)
Everyone around me is hitting walls, getting cranky with each other, failing to hand things in, no longer able to motivate to anything that requires the slightest bit of discipline. (Professors don’t want to do their grading either, I promise you.) Many of us have been working so hard to be good for so long on the pandemic front, and that is exhausting. We have used up most of our discipline, and haven’t had a chance to refill the well. Combine that with being trapped inside, cold weather, economic difficulties, grief and loss, illness, etc. and so on, it’s a perfect storm.
My pediatrician friend tells me that all the therapists are booked out for months. Maybe one thing we’ll take out of this pandemic is a new appreciation for their work (apparently there’s been a huge surge in people moving into the public health field; I hope the same happens for mental health), and for the value of attending to our mental health.
We are not machines for work — these bodies and brains can only take so much before they start to break down.
Me, I’m trying to go easy on myself and my staff and my students. Let us spend the rest of February, and maybe most of March, just doing what has to be done, all right? Identify what’s absolutely essential, use what shreds of discipline you have left to do that, ask for help if you need it (co-working with my husband or a friend sometimes helps me force myself to work when I’m feeing super-avoidant, like having a gym buddy). Extend grace to those around you who are missing deadlines, forgetting appointments, etc.
And then for all non-essential work — let it go, as Elsa says. It’s winter, and those of us in cold climates should be hibernating now. Be like a bear, curl up in that nest of blankets with your phone and TV and a hot beverage of your choice. Bake something sweet for yourself and your housemates, if you feel like it. Wait for spring.