I’d like to start off by saying:
I understand I have privilege; I sit here in my house, not worrying about my bills, the heat, food, or basic survival needs because I have a job that I can work from home, a savings account in case something would go horribly wrong with either of my jobs and we had to survive without income, and a family, that if I really, really fell on bad times, well, they would be able to help out. I know many others are not that fortunate right now.
We are one week into the directive to work from home for the remainder of the semester. My students just began their classes yesterday. The governor just sent out the “no non-essential travel/workers” directive yesterday. For all accounts and purposes, this is really “just beginning”, and I’m already pretty burned out.
Last week, I was given the directive to take two face-to-face science classes and put them online. Then create two fully online courses (in 5 days) for classes we’ve NEVER offered online. Later in the week, the directive came that we were to hold Zoom office hours, advising appointments, curriculum meetings, committee meetings and staff meetings. This resulted in me being on Zoom yesterday from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. nearly continuously. Day two, today, was not much better.
In the last week, nearly everything has gone virtual. We’ve done virtual counseling, physical therapy, tutoring, piano lessons, and a well child checkup. My son’s school has posted virtual cross fit, art lessons, and virtual counseling lessons. My family has started doing facetime and zoom meetings because our father is quite ill and nobody really knows what to do with that. I’ve been added to no fewer than 10 online groups aimed to help find resources for online teaching, or home schooling for people who don’t normally home school, or finding supplies in a time of shortage so we don’t waste our time roaming around and be exposed to Covid. I’ve ordered nearly everything I need for the next several weeks online. I’ve been to several zoom yoga sessions in an attempt to relax and rejuvenate. Even my friends, in desperation, scheduled a zoom meeting on Sunday to get some “girl time” and “human contact”. It’s all so overwhelming. A tool (technology) that I used to “supplement” my existence in the past (just weeks ago), has now become a necessity for continued survival in nearly all aspects of my life.
While all this is going on, the place I considered my respite and my refuge has now become my prison. When I would get fed up with work, I could leave and come home and feel peace. I could “choose” to work at home, or I could “choose” not to work at home. I could escape. Now, there is no “choice”. No escape. Now, my dining table has become more of a headquarters with 2 laptops and an iPad covering three of the four spaces where we normally sit to eat. Where we used to gather and give thanks has been converted to a place where I hold office hours and meetings, and where my son calmly completes some semblance of educational curriculum each day.
Besides being burned out, I’m worried. I’m worried that the world I’m forced to shield from will not be the world to which I return. What will things look like when we resurface? Will we have changed things so much and adapted so quickly that we will be to a point of no return? What will the long-term effects of a virtual world, in nearly every aspect, really be?
-Dr. Barbara Wylie