<span class='p-name'>Shine</span>

This year was tough. This year was also a power year.

I celebrated my birthday yesterday with the family. I took some time to reflect on the year that has passed and be thankful.

One year ago I was just beginning to come out of some serious setbacks in my professional career. I was humbled, embarrassed, and considering leaving academia. My mental health took a huge hit and I realized how transitory and fleeting is our grip on reality. My partner, kids, and therapist helped me hobble back on my feet and keep moving forward. I forgot myself.

One year ago we were a couple of weeks into lockdown and the mental health of my family, friends, students, and colleagues began to falter. I immersed myself into virtual school with the kids, while helping my students close out the semester. For some reason, I also decided to help start up a Facebook group for academics that were displaced by the pandemic.

My partner lost her job as the lockdown persisted. We quickly learned that the unemployment system was set up to fail. Hours and hours and hours were spent waiting on hold for some support to help process her application. We finally received some funds but were immediately informed that it was an error and that we needed to repay with a penalty. We never did receive any benefits from the system. I also think that people should shut their mouths when they pass judgment about folks seeking help from the state.

Adults around us were behaving badly. Friends, family members, world leaders. Many acted asinine and petulant. As a result, our family turned inward for support. This was much easier as we were sequestered for months in the house together. It also gave us an opportunity to learn and love together. We questioned or modified most of our connections with others as we considered our own values.

We taught our kids about racism and hate. We discussed their place in the world and the privilege that they enjoy. We shared our values as parents and indicated that they have the opportunity to decide, and ultimately live their values as well. We also indicated that it was not only okay but also appropriate to call out racism and hate when you see it.

As the summer pressed on and we prepared for the new academic year to begin, we (the parents) were terrified. My partner found a job and went back to work. This resulted in several health scares…but we needed her revenue stream. We decided to have our children attend school (kindergarten, fifth grade) virtually. I was teaching everything online as well. We knew juggling all of our schedules would be almost impossible so we reached out to some family and friends for support. Once again…silence. We were on our own as a family.

I also assembled, presented, and successfully defended my tenure and promotion materials. Over the summer I spent hours pulling together materials from the last six years of my academic life. Wrote, revised, and compiled my narrative multiple times.

After these materials were all uploaded in October, I waited until November to virtually defend my packet.

The photo is from immediately after my virtual defense. I didn’t know the outcome, but I was happy with the way I represented myself.

I waited for months for the final response, but ultimately was awarded tenure in April.

The kids had many struggles in their year of virtual schooling. The juggling of schedules was a constant hassle as I would have to teach my classes while one of the kids would log in or out of their classes. As the days ended, we took time to complete all of the missed work and homework that piled up. I have to say that my partner and I enjoyed (even painfully) the opportunity to help our children learn how to write, read, compute, engage, emote, and connect.

My partner continued to show the strength that makes me love, adore, and respect her. For months she was the sole individual that left the home for work, groceries, or supplies. She also took some time away from social media and questioned a lot of the relationships she had with others.

Our lives took a turn in October. My partner and I had our tarot cards read by a professional. We were at a crossroads for many things in our lives. Our parents were getting older and sicker. We were considering moving to support them and be closer to family. I was still considering my career in academia. The card reader saw through all of this and helped clarify a path forward for us individually, and as a family.

Not soon after, my partner indicated that she wanted to stay in the area, buy a home, and put down roots. I stood back as she obtained financing, found us a home, and not soon after, we bought a house together…for the first time. Our home is all thanks to the tireless efforts of this powerful woman. I’m looking forward to seeing our family grow over the coming years.

There were many other things that happened this past year, but this post is already too long. I wanted to document the high and low points before I forget them.

We also recognized the privilege in our existence. We didn’t share any of our challenges but also didn’t share about successes along the way. Too many were suffering and doing the work. As a family unit, we bonded together to support one another. As individuals, we also needed to do a lot of work to be the type of individuals that we think we are.

I learned a lot about myself this year.

For various reasons, I talk a lot but don’t really say anything. I don’t let many (any) people into what is really happening in my life. I have a couple of close friends that know what is really going on. But that circle is relatively small. I’ve been learning that a byproduct of not celebrating the good parts of life is that you only focus on the negatives and flaws you see in the world. You also quickly forget who you are…or how you got there.

I’ve started to come to terms with the work that I need to do in terms of self care and mental health. I also need to not forget who I am. I also need to not forget who other people are some times.

Professionally, I want to move from finding a true career to finding true purpose, and ultimately becoming a true colleague. In this, I want to use my role and identity to open hearts and minds while dismantling the system.

I could have never seen this coming, but I think the work of this past year is shine.

hard times are gettin’ harder, the liars are acting strong…you better get a grip on yourself or you won’t be around too long

Photo by Melanie Magdalena on Unsplash

2 Comments Shine

  1. Doug Belshaw

    What an incredible year (and an incredible post!) Ian. Thank you for sharing it as a reminder that we are stronger than we think – especially when we pull together.

    Congrats on the new Team O’Byrne family home! It looks amazing 🙂


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