Squirrel on pumpkin

It’s been almost a month since I taught my last in-person class of the Fall semester, and nearly two weeks since I submitted my final grades. During that time, J and I have been hunkered down at home, riding out the current Omicron surge.

After three full semesters of pandemic teaching, I’m used to the COVID drill. I’m accustomed to teaching in a mask, and my work weeks now revolve around the regular ritual of a PCR test, with results coming via email in a day or two. When you teach during a pandemic, the best day of any week is when your negative COVID test results come back.

Once my on-campus obligations are over, however, the cumulative exhaustion of pandemic teaching sets in. Once I’m no longer navigating a college classroom, I realize how much energy it takes to be ever-vigilant, constantly monitoring my own and my students’ symptoms: was that cough just allergies or something more troubling?

Over the holidays, while other folks flocked to airports, family gatherings, and social events, all I’ve wanted to do is stay home, retreating into myself like a rabbit gone to ground. Outside, the virus is running rampant; inside, I recharge and refuel, craving hibernation more than social interaction.

A few days before New Year’s Eve, I heard yet another NPR interview with an infectious disease expert answering questions about What Is or Isn’t Safe over the holidays. After another semester of wondering what is or isn’t safe every second I’m on campus, all I want for Christmas, New Year’s, and the next few weeks is a break from non-stop vigilance. Here’s hoping the Omicron wave has crested before classes resume later this month.