Hello, dear readers! (If there are any of you left, of course.) I have been rather hit or miss for quite some time. I’d love to promise that that’s all going to change, but I’m not making a promise I can’t keep. So instead, what I will promise is I’m going to try to make a concerted effort to not disappear for long periods of time again.
As is the case for most of the world, 2020 hit me hard. I was already in a depressed state when 2020 began. I wrote about it at the start of the year. I was coming out of a depressive episode that spanned for most of 2019 when the year came in. I was feeling optimistic when the year began. And by March, every shred of optimism was gone. I have grappled with how much to tell here; this isn’t my personal diary after all. I don’t want to come across as if I’m some kind of complaining millennial who can’t get his life together, even if that is how it feels sometimes. But to breeze past the things that happened to me in 2020 would also feel like sweeping them under the rug and pretending as if they didn’t happen. They did, and I’m still dealing with the fallout from much of the things that happened to me. And as a result, the person I am today is not the person who wrote that reinvigorated Triumphant Return post last January.
So a brief synopsis (feel free to skip):
Last school year, I was teaching the most incredible students. I had the most incredible job. Seriously, it was my dream job. I was able to teach the way I saw fit, and my kids responded well to it. We accelerated the curriculum and had time to fit in passion projects. Passion projects branched outside of English, so on Fridays, I was also teaching coding and music and physics. One student made sculpture from recycled materials to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the ocean. Another made hydraulics from objects typically found around the home. It was amazing.
But for more reasons that I will (and probably legally can) disclose, that position no longer exists. The week before school was released for Covid, I was informed I would not be returning in that position, and it was a blow that I honestly still have not recovered from. Last school year was that way, though, a series of blows that I didn’t have the chance to recover from before another one came. Around the same time, I found I had been selected to speak at a state convention, teaching other teachers how to do the exciting things I was doing, and how to engage students the way I was engaging them. And then I was informed by somebody above me that I was not allowed to present at this conference. In the end, it didn’t matter, because the conference was cancelled due to Covid. But it was still another blow that ultimately led me to leaving the school where I had worked for five years. The school I had called my home, where I had built a small legacy for myself, where I had made friends, where I had laid the foundations for a long and exciting career. It was all just gone.
Of course, the leaving didn’t come immediately. It came in the middle of quarantine. I didn’t fare well in quarantine. Again–I was optimistic when things began. I posted how I was thriving. And for a while I was. We bought a new house right as things shut down and moved into it during the tightest of lockdowns here in Louisiana. It was odd, moving in when stores were closed, trying to get supplies and furniture when things were closed. We had a months-long battle with a company we’d ordered a sectional from that involved no sectional ever coming and them holding our refund hostage for another few months.
But other than the furniture fiasco, I was thriving; I was painting, I was making music. I was binge watching shows. I never have time to watch TV or anything. It was kind of nice. Some of my closest friends and I made an event of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer together, and then discussing it regularly through Zoom. I finished The Office. I watched all of Parks and Recreation. I finished The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. And it was around this time that I realized I wasn’t reading. At all. And I had replaced real friends with sitcom friends. And that what I thought was thriving was my actually extroversion tanks running so far below empty that I was grasping at anything I could get. I was one of the last people to really attempt seeing others again in that initial lockdown; I didn’t want to expand my bubble. My wife is a doctor and our risk of exposure as a family was pretty high. I didn’t want to bring it to other people.
During isolation, a friend of mine got married. I decided to leave my tiny two-person bubble to attend this very small wedding. And when I returned, I was sick almost immediately. Within a week, my wife and I both tested positive for Covid. And it was a miserable experience. Neither of us we hospitalized but both of us should have been. We recovered, but I was weak for a long time. My wife bounced back more quickly than I did, but she’s always been healthier than I have been. But I got back on my feet. I set up my classroom. I prepared to start school. I tried to get into a groove and get ready for the new norm that was teaching hybrid classes during a pandemic.
School started and a week into the school year, a hurricane hit Louisiana and threw us all for a loop. My in-laws moved in with us for an extended period of time, having to evacuate from South Louisiana, where the hurricane had hit. There were anywhere from 3 to 6 adults in my house, as well as 4 dogs at any given time for a month for the following month. It created a new series of issues. Where my extrovert reserves had been depleted, they were now overflowing with nowhere to turn to get away from extra people in my house. They left and we tried to fall back into our routine, just my wife, myself, and our two dogs. That lasted exactly three days before we got a call asking us to foster the world’s most amazing 2-year-old.
And nothing will ever go back to normal after that. One of the things that yanked me out of my more-than-a-year of depression (besides proper medication and the new addition of therapy) is the ray of sunshine that came into my life in the form of this faster-than-the-speed-of-light toddler. He is wild and wonderful. He is silly and sensitive. He loves beautiful things. He has big emotions and a big heart. He loves/hates our giant puppy Winston (another unexpected addition to our world during 2020). Being a new parent presents a new set of challenges daily. Being a foster parent presents a new set of experiences. There’s something new waiting around each turn.
And that’s all ignoring the outside world in 2020, which was affecting me just as much as my personal issues. I couldn’t get away from news of hatred and pain and sorrow. Protests through the summer. Ongoing election issues. The nation torn apart in anger over candidates and issues. Hatred being espoused from all sides. It’s no wonder I felt like I was drowning. I’m impressed that anybody was able to get anything done throughout the year.
So for some positivity. I found a new hobby-turned-passion-turned-future-career. I started making soap and skincare products inspired by my love of books and reading. Because even if I wasn’t actively reading, I was still staying true to me. If you’d like to peruse my products, you can find them over at Epilogue Soaps. I release new soaps every month, but keep popular releases stocked as well.
I am spending less time obsessing over my work, and more time focusing on myself and my family. I’ve hit a healthy stride in my reading life again. I’m finding my way through again. I thought for a long time I had to get back on my path, but I’m finding that that’s impossible. With all that’s changed I’m carving a new path. I’m recreating myself; becoming a new version of me. I’m excited to see where I that takes me. I’m excited to see where I go.