We spend an inordinate amount of our mental and emotional bandwidth working to align ourselves with our stated identities. Society repeatedly asks us to make declarative “I am” statements on surveys, medical intake forms, or social media profiles. In doing so, we risk becoming an identity that is as much shaped by others as ourselves. “I am white.” “I am married.” “I am employed at Proctor.”
In September we published THIS blog post discussing the term acedia and its ancient roots that aptly describe the situation in which we have found ourselves in over the past thirteen months: listlessness, undirected anxiety, and inability to concentrate. At the end of the Fall Term, we shared thoughts on emotional agility and the need to come to terms with the complexity of that which we were experiencing. Over the weekend, The New York Times published an article titled, Feeling: It’s Called Languishing in which the author, Adam Grant, describes the joyless and aimless state that has besieged so many of us over the past year. We are inundated with messages seeking to help us make sense of this chapter of our lives.
Yesterday’s weather was just about perfect: sunshine, 70 degrees, no black flies. The only problem? We were in Phase 1 quarantine on campus due to a few diagnosed Covid-19 cases on campus. Remote classes continue today, Day Students remain home, and our Boarding Students are living and learning in dorm pods while we isolate and mitigate the spread of the virus. It has been a tough week in many ways, and yet at this point in the pandemic, we are refining our appreciation for stoic philosophy and becoming quite adept at identifying what lies in our control and what does not.
As the spring sunshine warms campus and students migrate out of their dorms onto the pathways and fields around campus during this post-Spring Break quarantine, we are filled with hope for the term ahead. At the same time, our community processes the loss of a long-time community member to cancer last week and walks alongside another as she battles late stage cancer. Both far too young, both remarkable humans who have made this school a better place and touched the lives of countless students, colleagues, and friends over the past decades. We find ourselves, again, learning how to hold the contradictory emotions of joy and mourning with grace.
Over the past months, an alarming rise in incidents of hate and violence towards Asian American and Pacific Islander communities reminds us of the deep seated racism, xenophobia, and misogyny that lives within America. Last week, yet another incident saw eight victims of irrational violence in Atlanta, Georgia. Regardless of the stated motivations behind this shooting, the fact remains that six of the victims were Asian women during a time when racist language and imagery against Asians has been stoked by anti-Chinese bias related to Covid-19. Racism and misogyny are intertwined in American history, and it is up to all Americans to stand up to it.
Over the course of this week and next, our Admissions Team is welcoming small groups of accepted students and their families to campus, many for the first time ever, to tour our facilities, connect with our faculty, current parents, and some local day students. While the rest of campus is on Spring Break, this Covid-19 friendly version of our traditional Revisit Days has the same goals in mind: present an authentic view of the Proctor experience to help our newly accepted students see if Proctor feels like the right match.
Sometimes it’s the little things like holding a door or saying thank you, and sometimes it's the moments that ask for much more sacrifice. Tuesday reminded me of this when I got the call early evening that one of the weekly saliva pool tests had pinged positive and 50 faculty and staff had to be antigen and PCR tested by our Health Center staff. We wanted to hustle the new round of tests off to the lab, so the call went out for folks to come back to campus. Immediately. The Health Center staff, some of them just having gotten home from their day shift, all showed up. The employees who needed to be tested left families and drove back to campus to stand outside the Health Center and wait their turn to be swabbed. They did so with humor, patience, and caring, and by 9:30 that night the task was complete.