Winding Down

Last week my nephew had his first birthday. He lives across the country, which means I hardly ever see him (save for pictures my sister sends me from time-to-time), but that sting is tempered by seeing my other nephew, who turns two next month, on a fairly regular basis here in Denver. I haven’t been around kids very much, and it’s amazing to see how quickly they turn into people with thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears.

I mention these children, and their milestones, to remind myself that as this year comes to an end, life has kept happening. And will continue to happen, somehow? Someday these babies will be adults, and they’ll ask me about 2017, and I can’t imagine what my response will be other than to stare off into the distance and say “that was a rough one.”

But really, what happened this year? As I mentioned in Monday’s #critlib chat, I haven’t written in my journal nearly as much this year as I have in the past, so I don’t have much to read as I replay the year in my brain.

Here’s what I know: I managed to stay productive (likely as a means of distracting myself). I wrote a couple of articles, taught a class for-credit, read a lot about algorithms, thought a lot about phenomenology, and continued plugging away on trying to figure out first-year instruction on my campus. I traveled to conferences in Baltimore, Chicago, and Orange County, California. More importantly, and I took an honest to goodness vacation to France and focused on my family life.

Much like I wrote last year, though, there’s been a pall over most everything. I’m never more than a moment away from remembering what’s been happening, what’s happening now, what’s going to continue to happen. And it’s everywhere. Like, everyone is feeling some variation of panic, frustration, depression, or anger. Even people in positions of power seem furious?

The maelstrom has manifested itself in a variety of ways, not all of which I could have anticipated. I’ve cried in front of colleagues, supervisors, and human resources. I’ve sat in Ombuds Offices and spent my lunch breaks reading Robert’s Rules, you know, just in case. I’ve seen students walk out of class to preserve DACA and left dozens of voicemails for a U.S. Senator who can’t be bothered to answer the phone.

And yet. And yet. And yet.

Finals week came right on time. The library was packed with students in pajamas cramming for their Chem exams, same as it ever was. We’re still writing our assessment reports, still updating lesson plans, still helping first-years find those three articles, two books, and a primary source. The same routines are in place, and I’ve been keenly aware that there is still good work to be done.

The only difference is that now everything is completely different. I can’t believe I’ve had to qualify library use policies with “except for Nazis,” but here were are. This year, man, it’s been a scene.

And the tension is sickly comical. The world is all on fire or underwater, but I still need to find coverage for my chat reference shift. The President of the United States is sharing racist propaganda, but faculty still want me to talk about the databases. Yeah, the Tax Bill is devastating, but all of the dry erase markers are out of ink and there’s a stapler jam.

I would read the news between classes to see if my childhood home has been destroyed by a hurricane. I would pause a conversation about the likelihood of nuclear war to check my phone and see a picture of my nephew taking his first steps. I would look at trending topics on social media, see a famous man’s name, and ask that most 2017 of questions: “Did he die or is he a rapist?”

I mean, high-fives all around to anyone who managed to get out of bed today, and no judgement to those who didn’t.

My biggest hope moving forward is that my nephews will come to know “2017” as shorthand for a hard year, not “The 2010s” as shorthand for a hard decade. I’m almost oddly optimistic, in that once you bottom out, there’s no place to go but up… right?


Anyway, I’m excited to pack this year away and start looking forward. Part of that will involve writing more on this blog, so be ready, dear reader. And hey, all of us, let’s have a happy new year?