Beth Burnett

Storyteller

One great thing about being a teacher and a student is that I completely understand where my students are coming from when they message me to say they got overwhelmed and couldn’t get their paper done. Though I’ve been forcing myself through all of my deadlines, I have about thirty years experience working under duress over most of my college kids and I’ve learned some of the tricks to push through when I feel like shit.

I’m managing teaching five classes, running an online writing academy, going through two classes for my own doctoral program, and trying to do *something* with my own writing. I’m managing. That said, I won’t say I’m particularly shining right now. It comes and goes in waves. I have great moments, such as doing recent edits on one of my stories with an exceptional editor. I have low moments like when I realize I haven’t published a book in almost three years and can’t say when I’ll be putting out another one.

I have moments of brilliance such as when I uncovered some hidden information about the impoverished 19th century Scottish poet I’m researching for one of my classes. And I have not-so-brilliant moments where I’m frantically skimming the week’s reading fifteen minutes before class hoping to pick up enough key words to be able to hold my own if the professor calls on me.

On the home front, my wife and I have been making tons of bread and spaghetti sauce and putting it up for the long winter ahead of not going out and eating our emotions. And also, we’ve been trying to get the house to the point of being clean enough that we won’t feel ashamed if we hire someone to come in and clean for us. We’re neither of us particularly great at cleaning anyway, but with us both being spectacularly busy and dealing with bouts of depression, it has gotten a little out of control.

But still, we persist. I cleaned the hell out of the kitchen today. I wrote a short story yesterday. I finished grading forty discussion board posts this morning. In fifteen minutes, I’m going to go outside and pick some ripe tomatoes from our plants. And hey, I wrote a blog for the first time since March!

We’ve been making peach “nice” cream from all of the locally grown peaches in our neck of the woods. And we’ve found that a bowl of ice cream and a little time watching Schitt’s Creek makes for far better sleep than sitting in front of the computer reading the news before bed.

I think I’m mostly happy and then I’m not. I think my wife feels the same – sad, sometimes, for the state of the world, over worries for our friends and family, over not having hugged anyone but each other since March. We rally and slide and rally and slide.

I keep a running to-do list. Things that must be done today. Things that can be put off until next week. And things I can slide into the cracks when I have a moment and a little motivation. I don’t always make it. Yesterday, I had an hour set aside to spend some time working on my research paper. I took a nap instead.

And that’s why, when my students tell me that they didn’t finish the assignment on time because they were too sad to finish the reading, I get it. I’m balancing between helping them learn coping skills to still get the work done and also not working themselves to the point of a breakdown. In essence, I’m just trying to give them some grace. That’s a lesson I can give myself as well. And all of you.

2 thoughts on “Covid Stress, Grad School, Depression, Oh my!

  1. Beautiful said, my friend. Some days I think I’m doing okay to remember to breath, other days I work like a rock star, and still other days I hate myself for not trying hard enough. In the end, we all need a little grace.

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