What a year. Where to begin?

What a year. Where to begin? Like everyone, my life has been turned upside down by the Covid19 pandemic. At first it didn't bother me that much if I'm honest. As an introvert who worked from home a fair bit anyways, having to stay at home didn't seem so bad. The most disruptive thing was the closing of the labs, but even then I could at least bring a microscope home to get on with a backlog of prepared slides (guess what, I haven't looked at any). My husband and I decided to share childcare of our two daughters on a daily basis, with me looking after them in the morning, and him looking after them in the afternoon. Again, this worked ok at first. A morning playing with the kids, an afternoon on Zoom meetings and catching up with emails. This soon descended into chaos as the kids inevitably got utterly bored with being in the house, the older one wanting to binge watch Power Rangers (don't ask) and the younger being soley interested in pre-school bright colours repetitive ryhmes oh my god turn it off before my brain melts. 

I quickly got through the tasks that could easily be done from home, and my emails started to fill up with queries from students needing back in the labs, health and safety, and an almost comical number of emergency situations related to externally funded lab projects. The TerraSAgE project that I was so excited about at the beginning of the year is now almost a year behind schedule as we haven't been able to do any of the fieldwork we were supposed to do this summer, and it turns out hiring people during a pandemic is near impossible (but there is a positive, we did manage to hire someone for one of the posts, and they're even allowed to travel now so can actually start the job in October!). I'm desperate to catch up with my research, but all my energy has to go into getting the labs back online and preparing for teaching. Supporting students whose lives have been totally disrupted, deadlines extended due to Covid = compressed schedules to get work marked, moderated and through exam boards so that everyone could graduate in July.

And then of course there is the inevitable online teaching that needs to be prepared for October. I actually started preparing my teaching sometime in April, as I had a suspicion that things would not be returning to normal by the end of the year. I'm glad I did as I am still nowhere near having finished and the start of the semester is creeping ever closer. I've recorded around half of the lectures I need to record, along with adding captions to all the videos. You'd think in this day and age there would be an automated way of doing this, and you'd be right. Except auto-captioning hates my accent, and just doesn't understand technical vocabulary, so is a bit rubbish when you're teaching things like Quaternary climate and phytolith analysis. It takes at least an hour to edit captions for a 20 minute video, so you can imagine what a time suck it is when each module I teach has around 24 hours of lectures.

I've just accepted now that I am one of those people who doesn't reply to emails, I just cannot keep up. I try my best, but inevitably things get lost in the daily deluge. But I refuse to go back to my old life prior to having a family, where I would happily reply to emails at all hours and on weekends. Working from home for 6 months during Covid19 has made it even more clear that having a separation between work and life is really important.