Since March 2020, I have had an article for this blog sitting stagnant in an online folder of writing projects. The premise of the article? How our normal should change following a global pandemic. For obvious reasons, I have not been able to finish that piece. We are still stumbling through the throes of that same health crisis.

Life as we, I, know it has changed. How we all have navigated through those changes is different. Reading through that unpublished article this morning has been incredibly therapeutic. Deleting the document, not acknowledging those past (yet still present) emotions to cycle through, would be a detriment to both myself and this audience.

Therefore, I invite you to take a short journey with me—one that I hope will clear paths in your process to restructure and rebuild during a time of crisis.

Things Will Never Be the Same

A wise man once said, “That’s just the way it is; things will never be the same.” While he was not speaking about life after novel coronavirus (that would come over 20 years later), in the song Changes, Tupac Shakur wrote lyrics that have stood the test of time.

In March 2020, the week before many Texan families were preparing for spring break, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that the spread of the virus had become a pandemic. Days later, as cases within the United States escalated, President Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency. In Texas, Governor Abbott issued a public health disaster for the state, which closed down schools and non-essential businesses such as salons, restaurants, gyms, and bars. Abbott’s executive orders also included a ban on large gatherings, first limiting groups to ten then decreasing the limit to five. Many counties and municipalities followed suit with shelter-in-place orders. Seemingly within the blink of an eye, Texans found themselves living life very differently.

As a person who has battled with anxiety and depression most of her life, those first few weeks of life in quarantine were harrowing. While struggling with my own big emotions, I deeply felt the global fear and uncertainty resulting from the spread of the coronavirus. Although cognizant of the negative domestic, economic, and educational outcomes of living life stuck inside the house, I remembered that I can create my own calm. In other words, I started to look for the positive outcomes of human isolation; and, where there were none, I created my own. I began to examine my life and imagine what could be if I focused on these forced changes as an opportunity to reflect, reset, and reshape. Yes, in response to generational struggles Tupac said, “things will never be the same,” but he also said we could be the agents of our own change.

We gotta make a change.
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live.
And let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see, the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do what we gotta do, to survive.

Deciding the Thrive Not Survive

Listening to that song, I made a conscious decision to do my part to make the necessary changes to survive. Most of my experience as a single mother has been treading water out of an ever-sinking boat. As Tupac Shakur’s lyrics cycled through in my mind, over and over, I realized that I was carrying more weight than I ever should. My boat was not made to hold so much, so I had to let some things go or accept that I would inevitably capsize. The things that I have let go in the following months are expectations. There are no standards or milestones that I do not set for myself. In every aspect of this life, my life, there is always choice.

I choose all of the details about the way that I live. I choose how I enter, walk through, and sometimes exit the world around me. I choose how I treat my neighbors—many of whom whose philosophies differ from my own—so that all of our families may survive. Because I have the power to create my own reality, I choose not to return to life as normal, or even accept a new normal. I choose not merely survive during difficult times but to thrive. My hope for every reader of this blog is to find their own pathway forward out of the muck and mud to discover opportunities in their lives to bloom and grow.

Dana Thompson, M.Ed. has been a fine arts educator in Greater Austin Area secondary public schools for over a decade. After years spent working in theatrical wardrobe and commercial makeup artistry, she found her calling in the classroom guiding young people to become innovative, well-rounded thinkers prepared for a future in the global economy. Never-married, Dana had an unconventional journey into motherhood. Although the births of her two sons flipped, turned her life upside down, she is proud to include the title of “boy mom” to her many accolades. When she is not surrounded by her children, at school or at home, Dana enjoys getting into good trouble with the diverse women who complete her tribe.

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