Missing Work

Today was the first day in a long time when I did nothing art related. Well, I’m doing a massive Reeves paint-by-number that my sibling-in-law gifted me back when they were downsizing in prep for their temporary move to Sweden, but nothing as “authentically” creative as my own drawing, sketching, or designing.

Part of that was time constraints; I had synchronous (video) classes today at 8:30, 9:30, and 11:30, with 10:30 being occupied by a trip to the school to retrieve some essential belongings. Being back in the building was bizarre. The hallways were all one-ways, with designated up and down staircases; half the classrooms were torn apart for the summer cleanings, so the hallways were packed with all sorts of classroom detritus, doorways to classrooms with newly waxed floors were hung with caution tape; signs and posters for upcoming events and club meetings that never got to happen were still hanging on the walls. It wasn’t “burst into tears” sad, but it was “dull ache deep in my chest” sad.

I’m glad I brought my keys as sort of a last minute whim, because when I got to the room I needed, it was locked. Opening it was like opening a little time capsule. Krissy’s umbrella was still hung up behind her desk. Stapler and paper puncher still on the table where Patty, Kyle, and I were sitting when news of the closure came in through e-mail. When I opened the cabinet where I usually kept my laptop and found it empty, I had a moment of panic until I realized, oh, wait — the day of the closure, I’d spent some time on my laptop, at the desk in the back. The laptop and bag were still propped against the filing cabinet under the desk where I left them, 11 weeks ago.

My mail box was empty, but my cap and gown had come in, for the graduation ceremony that would have been June 1st. The ceremony that I would have carpooled with Kathy and Patty for.

It’s weird, and I don’t think I realized it at the time, but man, what a difference it made just… seeing people’s faces? Only a few — they were tightly controlling the number of people in the building, and only at a distance — but just seeing other human beings in person, who don’t live in the same house as me? I’m not really a “social” person, I don’t make friends easily and I’m uncomfortable in most social situations that don’t have clearly defined rules and roles, and I have managed to completely take for granted how significant of a role in my social needs fulfillment that this job — full of people I’ve worked with for years in an environment and role that I know like the back of my hand because I’ve worked here for nearly 40% of my life — fulfills. How much stopping into a classroom and chatting about TV, or my son’s latest escapades, or school gossip, actually meant, how much it actually bouyed me along and helped me feel tethered to something.

Quarantine has not been bad, honestly. I am incredibly fortunate to be in isolation with people I love, incredibly lucky that I can do my job from home, incredibly privelleged that we have not lost income. But there are moments and days when I’ll think I’m totally fine, and then I’ll get a work email or see a video the kids put together, and I just lose it. I just utterly lose it.

I miss commiserating with people I feel comfortable with. I miss the kids. I miss sitting around the tables in the learning center and shooting the shit once the last kid leaves. I miss faculty meeting where all the teachers act like goofy middle-schoolers and our department head surprises us with donuts. I miss hiding out in the vocational office during a free block, or running copies as a favor to a friend.

But so it goes. We’ll see what the fall brings us. When I do finally find myself back, I know we’re going to celebrate. I’m looking forward to it… whenever it is.

Stay safe, sane, inside.

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