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I’m struggling

April 20, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Anthony Carnovale

Meh. What can I say? I mean, what can I say that hasn’t already been said?  You know, about this thing we’re all experiencing. Everywhere you look it’s the same thing, the same headlines, the same stories: NYC Death Tolls Surge Past 10, 000; WHO issues guidelines from lifting COVID-19 restrictions; COVID-19 has exposed decades of elder neglect. The same sickness. And here I am, trying to come up with a column that will…what? Say something new? Inspire you to do something great? Make you feel better? Think better? I’m privileged enough to have this space, so I feel I have a sense of duty to the paper, to the community, to myself to come up with something fresh every time my column is due.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think I can come up with something new; I’m trying. I could just write about the first thing that comes to my mind, but I can’t be that writer. That’s not how I work; that’s not how I live. For me, the best ideas come by accident. But these days there is no room for accidents; no room for chance encounters, no room for lucky breaks. We’re locked in our rooms with no place to go.

I’m struggling.

I’m struggling for ideas for this week’s column. I’m struggling as a father; I’m struggling as a teacher; I’m struggling as a human being, as a writer. Our lives have been upended and it’s almost impossible to grasp the enormity of it all.

Like most people, I turn to the news to help make sense of the pandemic. I read The New York Times the Toronto Star; I flip between CNN and CBC. I just roll my eyes and turn it all off.  I’ve never liked pundits and experts. Not once have I ever heard somebody say: “I’m sorry. I just don’t know the answer to that question.”

Many of us look for answers, comfort or distraction on social media. To me, it’s just an endless barrage of tweets and posts, likes and shares, a mass jumble of nonsense and anxiety and half-thoughts and empty prayers. In many ways, I think people are looking for others to tell them what they should think about it all. And then they turn to Twitter to see how they’re supposed to feel about it all. We can’t google our way out of this. I think, in a lot of ways, it’s this way of living that put is in this position to begin with. We’re looking outside of ourselves, when what we need to be doing is turning inside of ourselves. To do this, I’ve been using this time to think about my role as a father, writer, teacher, and member of this community.  

I feel sorry for my children. My son couldn’t have his friends over for his birthday. I watch my four-year old daughter paint, and work on another puzzle. I feel bad that she hasn’t seen her friends in close to a month. I’ve become my son’s best friend, his go to source for entertainment and play. My wife is a social worker; I’m a teacher. We’re teaching our kids the best we can. We run art lessons, literacy activities, help them with their assigned work. Are we doing enough? Its’s impossible to know.

My students are stressed and anxious. I called each and every one of them last week to see how they were doing, and to let them know we’d be starting our Distant Learning programming. This is what I heard from them: I haven’t been outside in three weeks, sir; My mother won’t let me leave the house; My father just got laid off; My daughter is in Toronto. I work in a senior’s home. I’m in self-quarantine; There’s only one computer in the house for the seven of us. Despite their grievances, it was good to hear their voices. I miss them.

Hearing their voices and their stories moved me. At the time, I was working on some ideas for our Distance Learning programming; after hearing their stories, it become clearer as to what I should be doing with them.

I decided that I had to get them writing about their experiences. I want to hear what they have to say about all of this —not Doug Ford, Donald Trump, Dr. Fauci or Anderson Cooper or Tom Hanks. I want to hear from people who don’t have a platform.

So, I’ve asked my students to do some work. I want them to keep a diary of their lives during these interesting and awkward times. I want them to be aware, to see, to respond to recognize their place in all of this. I’ve always told my students (usually on the first day of class) that if what I’m teaching them inside the classroom, doesn’t help them outside of it —on the bus, at the mall, at work, at home, in court — than I have failed as a teacher. It’s called authentic assessment.

By extension, I thought it might be a good idea to try the same thing with the community I live in. I’m reaching out to the people Orangeville and asking them to tell and share their stories. Many of us are reading other people’s stories; I’d like the people in Orangeville to read, write and share their own. I want to know how our seniors, our young, and our old are doing. I want to hear from our teachers, our social workers, our politicians, gas attendants, bakers, coaches and servers. I know plenty is being told and shared online; but I want to put together a cohesive narrative. I want to show people that even though our lives have been upended, it’s our stories that can help make us whole once again (some people do it with quilts; I’d like to do it with stories)

I want as many people as possible to complete it. I want to collect these stories and then turn them into an archive of sorts (I’m thinking a print book, e-book and/or website). It’s important for all of us to see that we are not alone with our fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams. I want our children to look at this document and see and learn and grow from the things that we are experiencing today. It’s the only way we can prevent something like this from happening again.

If you’re interested in taking part in this project you can visit my website at www.anthonycarnovale.com or email me at reachme@anthoncarnovale.com for more details.

I’m tired of hearing the same old stories, from the same old voices (including my own). What I want, is to hear your voice. Your story matters. I’m listening.



         

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