I held my third grade school photo up, showing my class the me of many decades ago: a scrawny, gap-toothed, pig-tailed girl – roughly the age of my current students – one who is just so happy to finally be in third grade.
Lifting the yellowed 5×7 photo next to my face to encourage comparisons, I toss out a few seeds of impromptu poetry, formatted for cultivation in the very near future – inspirations taken from Wishes, Lies, and Dreams by Kenneth Koch.
“I used to have blond hair, but now I have brown hair,” I say.
I used to be thin, but now I am, um……..not so thin,” I concede.
I used have freckles, but now I have wrinkles (sigh).
I used to wish for earrings, now I wear earrings every day.
I used to be terrible at math, but now I am better at it.
I used to want a horse, and now I have my dog.
I used to be a student, but now I am a teacher.
Our annual poetry exploration has me wondering how I would fill in those lines today – just ten days shy of the day our lives were upended by the closing of our school. As losses go, there are countless that are devastating and overwhelming, for some much more so than others.
In terms of irreparable personal damage, I count myself as one of the lucky ones. Yet – and perhaps for all of us – moving forward in a positive light is a search for hope and grace. I am emphatic about teaching my cohort of students how to navigate transitions with optimism, resilience, and poise, so why not me, too?
I used to not worry about getting sick, but now I think about taking good care of myself.
I used to visit my family, but now I hold them dear in my heart until I can see them again.
I used to see close friends in person, but now see faraway friends on ZOOM.
I used to go shopping, but now I save money.
I used to be tired, but now I go to bed earlier.
I used to be too busy, but now I have time to do things I like.
I used to forget how special a day is, but now I know that every day is precious.
As a creature of routines and schedules, I recall the parade of successful transitions that the past twelve months has demanded, and recognize that they are indeed accomplishments. They are also decisions on the part of each individual – student, teacher, parent, citizen – to move forward with gumption and grit. Though transitions are our new ongoing, evolving, frequently adjusting normal, I am still not fond of them, but at least I can now add one more line to my poem.
I used to not be good at changes, but now I say, “We got this.”