Be Thankful

A reflection exercise on Thanksgiving weekend as a monumental year winds to a close.

What do we have to be thankful for in the year of 2020?

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I’m very solution orientated. I think that just comes with being a teacher. If I see a problem, I problem-solve. However, this mindset oftentimes keeps us looking forward, to the future, prospective events that have yet to happen. On occasion, we have to stop looking ahead and starting living in the present. I have diligently stuck to a New Year’s resolution, I made in the distant past of January, of keeping a monthly gratitude journal. Every month, once a month I write a simple bullet-pointed list of things I am grateful for. I wanted to expand on that promise, publically, here.

What I am most grateful for…

…is the health of my friends and family. It is something that is said often but has taken on a new meaning this year. I think about it often, and how fortunate that those I care about are still with me. Several members of my close circle, both friends and family, have contracted Covid-19 and so for me, this has all been very real and very grounded. I think about them often, I have made it a point to not ignore phone calls or put off conversations as I am sometimes want to do. I’ve been talking with people, with no motive other than enjoying the conversation. It reflects a general change in the pacing of my life, a much slower, more meaningful, and thoughtful tempo that has become my new normal.

…is time given to me. The amount of time in a day has not changed, but the amount of useable time in my day has dramatically increased. No more commuting, traffic, finding parking. My workday starts later and ends earlier. I don’t have to wait in line to use the office microwave – in fact, I made grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch, using some basil from a grow light I keep in the rear of my apartment. Each morning I have time to do a 10-minute yoga and make a fresh Bodum of coffee. Then I drink my coffee from a mustard-yellow mug instead of pouring it into a to-go tumbler and hurriedly sip it as I make my way somewhere in the early morning darkness. I created original music and released an album, read 12 books, became an excellent chef, and saw 128 individual species of birds this year. My time feels like mine again, my energy, outlook, and optimism allow me to accept my time at work because I know that later I will have enough time for myself.

…a flexible and understanding school. If I had lost my income, like so many this year, time would mean little to me. I’d gladly trade that time for something else. My school has been exemplary in negotiating what has been unnavigable for so many. We have the means to provide tech for all our students, continue to supply meals, and will even pay for internet access if a family cannot afford it. They listen to parents, teachers, and families offering spaces for children to work when parents need to do the same. When the full days of remote learning felt too long, they grew shorter and more meaningful. It felt like responding to the needs of a community, acknowledging circumstances, rather than trying to rush back to normal.

…my mindset. We stress to our students, have a growth mindset. We talk about the power of “yet” and “grit” and “drive” but buzzwords like these are why they have been succeeding in a year where so many have not. After preaching and teaching words like this for years, I see that I have become them. There is no normal, only what you make of it. This time, this year, has been an opportunity. I’ve developed new healthy habits, learned new skills, and have a bag of new tools and lessons for use in my classroom. This year has truly been an exercise in adaptiveness, and as I write this I remember that this is the happiest I’ve been in years. There are things I miss, people I miss, things I wish I had, things I wish I hadn’t, but above all, I think of what I can do with the now. As I said at the beginning, I’m solution-orientated, and with all of the problems in this year, there have also been a lot of solutions.

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