I think back, say about five or six months ago, to a time when I was learning about Zoom as a possible tool for meeting conferencing. A member of a committee at the university which addresses IT considerations, I learned of the university’s decision to purchase a universal license for Zoom, which would roll out in January 2020.
Cut to today, where not only have we adopted it as a meeting facilitation tool, but all of us in academia have taught at least six weeks worth of classes in it. We’ve become so familiar with Zoom and now with Slack, that both have become not only tools, but essential components of our work and teaching flow. Why? Because if we’ve learned nothing in the past six months but this, it is that we are adaptable. Flexible. Willing to learn new things. If I became any more flexible, I might be able to have a job in the circus.
Things are moving fast, folks. Managing the Zoom events on your calendar can be challenging. When my colleague wrote “Perfect, I’ll look for the link,” she captured the brand new etiquette: how to respond to an inquiry for a meeting. Proposed time accepted. Thanks, I’ll look for the link. There are few things worse than missing the link to an important meeting and standing outside banging on the metaphorical door. So I pay attention when the links come and save them to my calendar. I’ve linked my calendar to Slack so they’re all in there, too. So easy, right?
Here was today’s humiliation. I serve on the Emergency Operations Center at the University. The EOC has met since early March to strategize and communicate protocols around the development of COVID-19 and its impact on the university. When I say I serve, I mean I listen in on a weekly Zoom meeting (always Wednesdays at 4pm) with about 150-200 other administrators. Of late, we’ve been hearing about the restart plans of the university as they are refined. Every Wednesday at 4:00PM. Earlier today, when I managed to erase the Zoom link in my Outlook Calendar app in Slack, snore, Els, I struggled to recreate it, and inadvertently invited the entire 200 members of the EOC group to the meeting at 4:00PM on Saturday, July 11th. Doh!
It was flattering that within about five minutes 41 of them had accepted the changed meeting, as well as indicative as to how “in the zone” we all are for planning. One person checked to be sure I meant Saturday, and when I responded apologetically, she said she wasn’t doing anything but social distancing at home on Saturday anyway, which was the kindest response ever. The host of the meeting I’d co-opted and rescheduled graciously wrote in a very brief email the subject line of which was “Weird Issue” said, “Could you please cancel it?”
Aside from moments of shame like the above, with so much going on all around us, pandemics, loss, uncertainty, more loss, I’ve found myself feeling surprisingly calm. For the first time in my life, I’ve stopped biting my fingernails. Early on I think I decided that chewing my fingernails was a healthier stress remedy than my mom’s life-long cigarette addiction. I was embarrassed about it, I knew it wasn’t attractive, but nevertheless I persisted. During a rehearsal, standing in front of people, it didn’t matter. Suddenly in what may be the most stressful time in my life, I’ve stopped.
At first I thought “I’ve really learned those hygiene protocols!” After all, it’s hard to bite your nails when you’re wearing a mask, that’s true. But since I’m working at home, I don’t wear the mask that often, and I’m certainly sitting around a lot these days, so I can only attribute it to a lack of need to bite my nails. It’s a pleasing turn of events. Maybe it’s all those zoom calls. I am in meetings about 6 hours a day, and all that time, all those links later, my nails are growing stronger, unfettered by idle chew time.
Years ago, when I moved in with my boyfriend, later husband, I became aware that my early twenties’ habit of sloughing off clothes like a reptile sloughs off its skin, and slithering away into the other room was frowned upon. I corrected that bad habit quickly. Then gave up alcohol soon after. Adaptation is something you master as you get older.
I want to talk about adaptation as it pertains to those links. Those links that we click on to get into our meetings, or look at the giphys about humiliation. Or hopefully lately, those links which take us to the resources to adapt our behaviors and awareness to things far more important than tidyness and good hygiene. To adapt our racist behaviors, those learned, and those so deeply ingrained that we are unaware of them and in denial. How as white people we can use links to begin to interrupt systemic racism by spending 10/25/45 minutes a day for one month of intentional learning. We are never too old or too inflexible to reflect on our history and our privilege and to adapt, to break bad habits. So maybe many of us have missed Justice in June, but how about Justice in July?
Perfect. I’ll look for that link.