For three weeks in September, I found myself experiencing online learning for the first time. I really hated it. I felt disconnected, isolated, frustrated, and angry those first two weeks. I wanted to feel the energy of another human being as we danced, experimented and played. Instead I found myself relegated to a tiny little Zoom box, isolated from my peers and chafing from my restrictions. By the end of the second week, I had reached a tipping point. If I got another notification that I would be online for longer than this, I was going to quit. It would have felt like the end of the world.
Fast forward almost one whole semester. I’ve had the opportunity to be in the same room as my cohort, I’ve gotten to know my instructors better and I’m ready to perform several new pieces. Thanksgiving is this week and I was notified that I will be finishing this semester online. It couldn’t be worse timing either with the culmination of so many projects about to change, halt, or be postponed. But this time, I do not feel like this is the end of all things. What changed?
Hope, maybe? A kinship has certainly blossomed within my cohort. I have bigger problems than online course delivery. I’m more used to this city now; I no longer feel like a foreigner. I have had practice with online learning, and that that has eased me into the format a bit better. Maybe I am one of many strange, transient beings, impermanent, shifting, unfixed. We adapt, we fit ourselves into our new containers like water or air. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not.
Human beings are at their very nature, impermanent. I sometimes wonder if life would mean as much as it does if it never took us by surprise, changed, or ended. Some of you may be aware of a YouTube channel call Unus Annus. Their main goal was to make content (mostly silly and all in good fun) to the best of their ability and with their full love and attention, only to delete the entire channel after one year (hence the name). Hordes of people subscribed to the channel, watched the videos, followed the independent creators who worked to bring it into being and when the time came for the channel to end, 1.5 million people tuned into the channel’s last livestream just to share its last moments before the screen went black forever. One of the channels former hosts, Mark Fischbach, said in a video reflection, “The entirety of what something is cannot be truly appreciated until it ends […] Grieving was the point. Sadness was the point […] I hope I can approach my own death with the same sense of contentment and satisfaction that I walked in with to that last stream.”
Yeah, 2020 sucks, and I’m also tired of hearing myself complain about it. But before I finish talking about my COVID woes, I just want to acknowledge my appreciation for what it has taught me. Transience is inevitable, uncertainty is inevitable. And this year, like this pandemic, will pass. I am grateful that it has forced me to confront myself in a frightening way and that it showed me who those around me really are. It has brought me even closer to my friends and family than I was when we weren’t miles apart. It taught me what it means to put in effort and reap the rewards. And as I list all the things I’m grateful for during my Zoom Thanksgiving, I can look back on the entirety of 2020, with the contentment that I have been responsible enough to keep my family and friends safe and with the satisfaction that I made it through, and guess what? So did you.