Light, Dark, & 2021

I’m not big on resolutions at the beginning of the year (they come and go too easily), but I do regular goal setting instead.  I also create a graphic for the year that I’ve shared every year for the past few years now.  I actually have TWO for this year, but I may ramble a bit first to explain my thoughts behind them (forgive me if I do).

I’ve got a lot of thoughts in my head about this last year.  I don’t want to go into all of them because it’s simply too easy to fall into the darkness.  It’s only within the last few weeks that I’ve realized I spent a LOT of the last year dwelling in FEAR and ANGER (not to mention stress).  I want to be real and talk a bit about that, but … I don’t want to live in the darkness any more.

I was talking with a friend yesterday about this very thing and she said something so profound that she  voiced exactly what I was struggling to figure out.  She was talking about posts on Facebook and how this last year she really struggled to NOT post negative stuff (ME TOO!).  She (like me) prefers to post the positive because (and this is what kinda blew my mind a bit) when the memories pop up in years ahead, she wants to remember the good times, not the bad.  YES!

BEGINThis is ultimately what I want to do today as I look forward to the year ahead.  In fact, I’ve realized I need to shift my perspective to one purposely seeking out joy and happiness.  I might go so far as to start a daily gratitude journal again.  My soul has grown SO weary of the darkness and the sadness that has sat on my heart so heavily in so many ways this last year. So let’s begin, shall we?

First, in an effort to be real, I will have to share some of the darkness.  I won’t share all of it, as I know we’ve all spent a lot of time in the dark this last year and we are all crying for the light.

I loved what Melissa Sweet said the other day about dark and light in her blog and it got me thinking even more about this.  In Alaska, we know ALL about long darkness.  We spend a great portion of the year in it every year in winter when daylight becomes minimal.  It’s never quite 24 hours where I live, but I’ve grown used to driving to work AND leaving work in the darkness of winter over the last few years.  It’s SO hard when you don’t see the sun.  But in reflecting on light and dark, I was reminded of this quote I found a few years ago:


It still feels dark to me.  I still feel stuck.  Most people are just glad 2020 is over, but that’s not me.  I’m still dealing with a lot of things that aren’t resolved yet.  One of the biggest of those is teaching.  I know I’m not alone in this and I know everyone has an opinion about the current pandemic educational system, so before I say anything more I need to say this: what I write here are MY opinions.  Opinions are just that.  They are not truth.  They are not set in stone.  My opinion can change and I have always tried my whole life to NOT express opinions that might alienate others.

But I’ve reached a crossroads where I’m tired of being quiet.  You see, I’ve fought for months now to keep myself and my students (and their families) safe in the best way I know how: stay online.  You would not believe the battle this has been and I know that there are teachers who are already teaching in person around the country, let alone around the world, when the pandemic isn’t resolved.  I cannot understand this.

Why is it worth the risk of even ONE teacher’s life (because yes, teachers have died) or ONE child’s health (because yes, children have gotten sick with lifelong repercussions) to risk teaching in person?

Don’t get me wrong; hear me out.  I love kids, I love working with them, and I agree that online teaching isn’t the best solution.  I also understand that families need to work and cannot do that as easily with children at home, nor can they help them with their education when they’re struggling to survive right now.  BUT this doesn’t mean I’m lazy.  Why is that the knee jerk reaction right now about teachers?  We have school board members here that are publicly telling everyone who will hear that local teachers like me are only working an hour a day and it’s NOT true.  I’ve never worked harder in my life than I have this last semester while teaching online.

This is where the anger kicks in.  Not just about my circumstances, but … I’m definitely seeing a dividing line between societal classes here.  I work in a Title 1 school with extreme poverty.  I see families crammed into one tiny living space now, more than ever.  Multiple generations have come together to try and survive this pandemic (due to job loss or illness).  These are the same ethnicities that are dying in huge numbers from COVID.  They cannot afford home school because they are surviving by the skin of their teeth.  If we go back in person, they will HAVE to return and this will have a HUGE impact on them.  So huge, that if I’m honest, the push for in person education almost feels like ethnic cleansing to me.  I don’t understand it.

I miss more than words can express the tiny hugs and the million interactions of my classroom, and it would be SO much easier to be back in person.  But it’s not safe.  I don’t understand this push to return in person.  And in 3 weeks time, I will be there with them, in person in the classroom, struggling to figure out education in a completely new way for the umpteenth time this year.  I will do my best to stay safe myself, and to try and keep my students safe.  But I’ve already seen a parent of one of my students already die this year.  I’ve known her for years and worked with her kids who are now orphans.  The pandemic already hit close to home and so many lives are changed forever.

There.  There is the fear, there is the anger, and there is the darkness.  And that’s more than enough of that.  Now, as I desperately hope for the dawn and I hope that we all will rise like a phoenix from the ashes, let’s find the light.  Here’s my first image:

OneDayAtATime1In dealing with self-care this year, this quote came up.  “One Day at a Time” is a reminder to take one small step at a time toward the light.  It’s a reminder for me to stop dwelling in fear, anger, and anxiety.

I’m 6’2″ and as a gangly teenager, I learned to walk with my eyes down on my feet (for fear of tripping).  I walk by watching only a few feet in front of me.  BUT as I’ve aged (oh joy), I now have bifocals.  I cannot walk watching my feet while wearing them.  It makes me dizzy.  I’ve learned to lift my eyes ahead of me to see where I’m going.  This is what I want to do for 2021.  I want to look ahead of me for the light.  I want to hope that things will get better.  They must!  So I will take baby steps (to quote one of my favorite Bill Murray movies), one day at a time.

How does this impact my creativity for the year?  Well, this is the other image I created (which also needs a bit of explanation).  I struggled to write, draw, or create in any way at the beginning of the pandemic.  I was able to get past it this summer and revamp some things, but then once school started, it died.  I struggled again.  I’ve heard this repeatedly from others.  Not only was this year hard for all of us emotionally, but it was hard for us creatively.  Frankly, to me it felt like a forest fire had raged through my life, consuming everything in its wake, leaving nothing but ashes.

And yet!  Nature never ends with a fire.  Even Australia is seeing regrowth after the fires that consumed their world.  We will rise out of the ashes of this last year, out of the pandemic, out of illness and everything else.  Will it be better right away?  No.  Growth always starts slowly.

So I challenge myself (and you too, if you need the challenge) to this:


Continue to grow, one day at a time.  Continue to find those small moments of joy every day, however small they might be.  And each step, each day will add up.  Hopefully as those days add up, we will take root in hope and we will begin to thrive. But whatever you do, don’t give up.  Keep writing one word at a time, or drawing one picture at at time.  This is how we will survive.

I saw this poem shared in a creative Facebook group I belong to recently and I have to share it here:


Keep trying!  Keep putting one foot in front of the other, one word in front of the other, or one drawn line in front of the other.  Maybe it will help to record your own gratitude journal, but whatever you do, look for the light.  It is just over the horizon.

4 thoughts on “Light, Dark, & 2021

  1. Hey, Jena. Where are teachers on the priority list for vaccinations, do you know? Now doesn’t seem like a smart time to increase risk.

    I’m wishing you a heap of light well before spring arrives.

    • Sadly we’re low. We might make round 4. It might not be until summer that we get vaccinated. I’m hoping sooner, but … we’ll see. There was a weird school board vote that is basically forcing us back January 19th.

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