This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Olivia Kilbane
What is grace? No, seriously, what is grace? Is grace a type of elegance or, maybe your cousin’s middle name? Oxford Languages tells us that one form of grace is “free and unmerited favor”.
I think of grace as acceptance or forgiveness without an ultimatum. Something that I don’t do well is give myself grace. Especially recently, I could count on one hand how many times I have actually given myself grace throughout this “new normal” while facing the many challenges. During the last few months, the beginning of quarantine, the first half of 2020, the “shut down”- whatever you may call it, things have changed, and lifestyles have been totally altered. Period. This season of unprecedented change has brought on many challenges, physically and emotionally, for so many people. I am often stuck wondering “What could I have done better?” or thinking “That wasn’t the very best effort on my part.” I criticize myself constantly, even more so throughout the pandemic.
I would consider myself a busy bee. Like many educators, I’m always on the go, I love to be productive, and having a project or goal to work toward makes me thrive mentally. Throughout college I was involved in many organizations that kept me busy constantly. When that suddenly stopped, I was shell shocked. Throughout the time of quarantine, however, like many others, I was challenged in more ways than one. Sitting at home, not being able to go anywhere or continue with my normal routine genuinely took a toll on me. I ended up sitting alone in my apartment for hours on end, day after day wondering what is going to happen next. I will embarrassingly admit that my days looked something like this:
- Wake up
- Move to the couch
- Attend a Zoom meeting
- Watch something on TV
- Take a nap
- Find something to eat
- Attend another Zoom meeting
- Try to be productive
- Go to bed
How terribly depressing is that?! That is how I was living- every day for months. Like many of you, I shut down when the world seemed to shut down, and it had presented a large negative impact on my mental health. I was hopeless and I was scared. My senior year of college was cut short, I didn’t receive my diploma on a stage, and I didn’t get a proper “goodbye” to the 18 precious students in the class that I was a student teacher in. All in all, I was heartbroken.
Instead of dwelling on my lifestyle and mental setbacks throughout the past months, I choose to overcome and move forward. I’ve decided to give myself grace. I’ve forgiven myself for not putting all of my effort toward many things lately. I have accepted that many people struggled recently and that I am not alone, because believe it or not, coping during an INTERNATIONAL PANDEMIC isn’t really something that we’re prepared for.
Following the point of acceptance and grace giving, I started to make a change. I listened to podcasts, I started walking every day, I started a side job that makes me happy, I have taken more time to be productive and to take care of myself, and most importantly, I’ve reconnected with family and friends. Toward the end of April, I moved into a new house and started graduate school in May. I have found things that make my soul happy, and I’ve promised that no matter how long our lives are altered during the pandemic, I will never sink to a low place that I did previously this year. No matter what, I will give myself grace, and you should, too.
Olivia Kilbane graduated from West Liberty University in May of 2020 with a major in Elementary Education. Olivia has not yet began a career as a teacher, but her dream job is to be a teacher in a Children’s Hospital, advocating for children and their families during difficult times. Olivia has been engaged in multiple organizations and leadership positions at West Liberty, and currently is a member Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Olivias’s special interests include camping and fishing with friends, and spending time with her cat Lenny. Olivia is currently in the process of obtaining her Master’s degree in Special Education.