Somehow, I always find myself on the floor at the end of the school year. It doesn't seem to matter if I have a perfectly lovely writing desk next to me (which I do), or multiple seating options to choose from - when I hit a certain level of exhaustion, I just go to the floor.
And I *am* exhausted, as I imagine many of you out there reading this are, especially the teachers of the world. I’m trying to summon the energy to do anything, and I keep looking at my ceiling. The cats occasionally come to check on me. This end-of-school-year, pandemic-still-going exhaustion goes down to my bones.
I’m tired of the anxiety every time I check my email, tired of trying to troubleshoot technology problems, tired from the last year plus of feeling like going outside was putting my life in danger, tired from the fear that no matter how much effort I put into my online lessons and classes that students would leave my studio (because as one person put it to me, “You’ve done a great job, but in-person will always be better.”) and I’d be unable to pay my new mortgage, tired as I look at my new schedule which for the first time in a year will feature a combination of online AND in-person lessons which will require extra time, coordination, and safety protocols. There’s a lot to be grateful for, and I am. And I have a lot of privileges, which I am aware and for which I am grateful, but I am still so tired.
The world would have me believe that now is the time to be energized. Marketing emails for summer programs are pouring into my inbox, encouraging me not to miss out, to take my playing to new heights, or to give my students the experience of a lifetime. I read them and admire the creativity, and then I feel tired. Does it make me a bad violinist/teacher/human that all I want to do is lay on my floor right now?
Things are opening up. The COVID seven-day positivity rate is down to around one percent in my county. I'm fully vaccinated, as is my husband. I can hug my mom again. I continue to see live, in-person concerts advertised. People are announcing their new teaching appointments, their new albums, their new chamber music initiatives. I wonder if I should be doing more to stay relevant as the world begins the slow, messy, awkward return to in-person life.
I have a small recital planned for myself later this month with a pianist friend, to push myself out the door and to remind myself that I'm an actual violinist, not just inept IT support who has to start most lessons by saying "Can you turn on your original sound?" even during the last week of lessons for the semester. I love the music I’ve chosen. The first rehearsal with the pianist was affirming and joyful in so many ways. But my brain just can’t seem to focus long enough to practice seriously.
I end every semester with my students by asking them to reflect on what they've learned, what they've experienced, how they've grown, what they're proud of themselves for, how they feel about an impending return to in-person lessons. The conversations this week have been interesting and show me just how messy and awkward that return will be. Some students are raring to go - in fact, they would've had in-person lessons this whole time, vaccinated or no, as the emails I've gotten from a few parents have indicated.
Most students have found some silver linings to the online lessons, whether it was the built-in recording feature of Zoom that allowed them to assess their own playing more regularly, the ability to really get close up and see details of technique, or just being able to learn in the comfort of their own home. All of us miss being able to play duets and play together, in real time.
One of my students said that she's just so tired of the mental load of being online - making sure the internet is working, staying in frame, setting the audio just right, having things cut out and not being able to hear everything, and I really connected with that. I've gotten used to it, but I will be so happy to not have to worry if the wifi connection is strong enough.
And a few students aren't ready to return to in-person lessons - they like not having a commute, they or someone in their family isn't able to be vaccinated because of age or underlying condition, or they don't want to return until in-person life is exactly like it was pre-pandemic, with no restrictions. I absolutely want what's best for my students and for them and their families to feel comfortable with lessons, online or in-person, but the mental and emotional effort of affirming all of those viewpoints and thinking about the logistics involved in managing that...yeah. The transition back is going to be a long, messy, and awkward, I'm sure. And we're not going back to how life was before. It's a brave new world, and the pandemic isn't over yet.
If you're ready and excited to jump back into in-person stuff and that feels great and energizes you, that's awesome. Power to you!
But if you're feeling a little more like me, with all of the news about summer festivals, concerts coming back, and the pressure to jump back in flooding inboxes and social media feeds - I just wanted to say:
It’s okay if you just want to lay on your floor. It's okay if the idea of playing in front of people freaks you out. It's okay if you need to spend a few days (or a week) sleeping instead of practicing. It's okay if you don't have the mental bandwidth to practice self-care the way people on Instagram say you should. It's okay if you need to spend this summer recovering from the GLOBAL FREAKING PANDEMIC NIGHTMARE we've all been living through and if you don't have your best summer ever. It's really okay.
My hope for us all is that we are able to take the time and space to truly rest, to do what connects each of us to ourselves and to our music in a free and joyful way, and that in doing so, we can begin to find our footing in this new space. After some sleep. A lot of it. And maybe just a little more time here on the floor.
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