“I think I’m ready for it to stop raining.
Feels like I haven’t left the house in near a goddamn year.
I’m not built to be a shut-in,
Reduced to wake and work and sleep and spend and broke again…
…IT’S BEEN A GODDAMNED YEAR.”
~Not Half Bad, “Three Things That Aren’t Jackie Chan”
2020 is terminal. It should be in hospice care, but it doesn’t have insurance. I do not know if I will mourn the passing year when 2021 is born and 2020 dies. Perhaps I will feel relieved that it has finally journeyed to that beloved past of the grand history books where, a generation from now, a right-winged republican will recall that it was “the days when America was great.”
I had taken my Drawing 1 class to the Art Institute of Chicago to draw at the Giotto exhibit when we received the email that the school was shutting down. We gathered at the benches in the Impressionism room on the second floor. Meeting together to hang out and share our drawings was our classroom–family tradition. Instead of bonding over our work, I translated the email from President Kim. I couldn’t answer the question of what was going to happen with our classes. We were going to play figure-gesture wiffleball in the park next week. We could still play, right? I stood on the stairs and waved goodbye to every student. A few walked back to campus with me. It was the last time we would be together in person. I sat in the empty 805 drawing studio and cried.
I had been to President Kim’s home twice. Once on the evening before the shut-down, and once the evening after. At the first event, we attendees talked about how students in other schools were being thrown out without warning and we laughed at the madness of pepper bullets. At the second event, guests were greeted by a hand sanitizer station, and the talk was much more serious—the laughs a little more awkward.
I taught my class remotely via YouTube Live. Teaching and the support of my students, friends, family, and teachers saved my sanity. In April, after a bout of depression and acute agoraphobia, I made the decision to return home to Pennsylvania. I kept my apartment, thinking that I might be back for the fall semester. The virus rages on, and I only have health insurance in PA. I made the decision to work and teach remotely (with the help and incredible support of my department). I rented a van, packed up my apartment, hugged my best friend Ava, and moved home permanently.
The 2019-2020 school year was a hell of one. A month before I moved to Chicago, my maternal grandfather died. My mother was sick with uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts. I sold my car; It wouldn’t pass inspection. Three weeks after I moved to Chicago, my mother had a complete hysterectomy and a long, complicated recovery. Due to the virus, my grandmother, my best friend and only surviving grandparent, is isolated in her old folks’ apartment. My older sister went back to work only for the schools to shut down. Now she and her husband work full-time while overseeing online school for their two children. My younger sister graduated college, Class of 2020. She starts paying on her loans this month.
It’s not all bad, though. It is a LOT more work to teach a studio class online and it presents a whole new set of challenges, but I have an incredible group of students and love every second I spend with them. My relationship with my artwork and my family is stronger than ever. Previously, I had been working on large sculptures in clay. Now, without access to a clay studio, I am working in other mediums again—assemblage, collage, painting and drawing. My thesis project, which was originally going to be an artist book about women’s health and my mother has expanded to an artist book about my family, a separate women’s journal publication, a folk punk album, and a recently started weekly women’s health zine (@shoutshoutgrrrlzine).
2020 will soon be gone, but it won’t ever be forgotten.