I would never have volunteered to take an online course. I’m the one who has never been on Facebook, and who never plans to be. I don’t know what Instagram is, or Reddit. I’ve never sent a tweet, or used Skype, or read a blog. I have 2,000 emails that are unread. That said, I have a lifetime commitment to education, and I’m working on a third degree, because a modern woman needs a degree, and a woman of color needs two or three.
My last in-person class was March 12. I intuited that we wouldn’t be going back to school in person, and I felt a looming sense of dread. Initially, my experience with moving to online classes was a cross between a Little Shop of Horrors and A Nightmare on Elm Street—to put it mildly. I didn’t have a home internet connection, I had a hotspot that worked poorly before the pandemic, and it was virtually useless once everyone else near me was at home pulling on the server with stronger signals than mine. To pour more salt in the wound, I live in a wireless internet ‘dead zone’, but I knew I had to adapt.
Once we got full force into online work, I’d email assignments that my professors would not receive. I was staying up until two and three a.m.—when I hoped everyone else was sleeping and not using the internet—in order to successfully send assignments via my hotspot. When I called the Boise State Help Desk for assistance, they were unable to help me because I didn’t have a secure internet connection, I was on lockdown, and would be ill-advised to go to the library, the Boise Co-op, or to the home of a friend to use the internet. Besides, the friend whose internet I would likely use, was repeatedly self-quarantined because he had COVID-19 symptoms and I, masked and gloved, was shopping for him and leaving groceries outside his door for five weeks so he didn’t have to come into contact with anyone else.
Of course, my car also broke down during this time, my iPhone was going nuts, and I had to wait for weeks to get an appointment to have home internet installed because of the carriers’ increased demand for internet installation. What else? The world had recently seen evidence of flood, fire, tornado, and hurricane. Idaho had just had earthquake tremors, and now the ‘hoax’ had morphed into a pandemic. What next? Locusts and zombies? In speaking with a friend, we decided we would take it one plague at a time and just keep going. Finally, my home internet was installed.
Now, the good news: my professors were awesome, helpful, compassionate, flexible, and available. One helped me set up my Zoom account. I’ve been Zooming, Dropboxing, and Google Doc-ing. Not saying I like it. But I’m doing it. I keep reminding myself that when we operate with integrity—when we are conscientious—‘technology is our friend.’
I won’t go to online summer school this year, but I do plan to learn how to better use my iPhone, my iPad, and my MacBook Air, and I plan to learn how to tweet over the summer. I’ll be better prepared for online classes in the future, should it come to that. We adjust or we die—and I’m all about being ageless and timeless, about leaning into the opportunity within the crisis, about finding the gift in the wound, about extracting realization from the experience, and about maximizing the possibilities latent in this time of transformation. I’m grateful for this time.
Part of my coping strategy has been wearing even brighter than usual clothing, and lipstick! My quarantine days are filled with walking my Bullmastiffs in the foothills while social distancing, regularly checking on four elders by phone, and planting, planting, planting vegetables, and oh so many flowers!
So, here’s to staying healthy and strong, and to creating a new and better future for ourselves and for our shared world.
-Risë Kevalshar Collins