wtf. and yet, beauty

Hi all,

(I’ve been sending periodic emails to current and some former students since the start of the pandemic. If you want off this list, lmk. If you want to stay on as a former student, lmk and send me your non-UW email. And, if you’re interested, you can see an archive of past emails to students on my website.)

You know… when I first started writing these emails to current and former students EXACTLY TWO years ago tomorrow, I really didn’t think I’d be writing regularly for so long… Then, of course, you know… stuff happened. The pandemic lasted waaaay longer than people were predicting, then we had BLM, “Karens” became a thing, Asian hate increased, we lost RBG, we had an election, and we had an insurrection. Also, unbelievably–but, actually, you know what? not at all unbelievably–we got anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. If there’s anything the last five or so years have taught me, it’s that people are idiots. Indeed, the more the months passed, the more it became just bizarre. The darkest timeline. The Bad Place. We even had murder hornets and now flying spiders. Everything is just a blur, actually. I don’t remember if some things happened this year or the last or maybe even pre-pandemic… The climate steadily got worse, smoke from wildfires became the norm for Seattle summers… and it just became for me a numbing sort of long-game effect where like… I mean…

Do you remember when I first started writing these emails? In that first one, two years ago, I just said that I was here for you in case you needed support since we started the first round of state-mandated social distancing and it seemed like UW would hold Spring Quarter remotely, and I was worried about anyone who didn’t really have the best home situation or whatever. Then, in just two weeks, I felt compelled to write another email, laying out some cold facts about the virus and its exponential growth (cases and deaths were doubling every three days). Remember how I was freaking out that we’d have as many deaths as we did during WW2 (300k) in just two weeks? Well, thankfully, the rate of deaths slowed… but, you know what? Sometime in the last year, we definitely shot past that milestone and have close to a million deaths due to the pandemic in the US now… That’s FOUR times more than the White House’s projections from two years ago. And like… no one seems to care? Everyone is just numb? We’re in wtf times, let me tell you.

And, yes… goddammit, now we’ve got a war in Ukraine that might turn out not thaaaat bad (for us) but might alternatively turn into nuclear fire… it sort of seems like 50/50. That’s kinda freaky. Isn’t it? I mean, it seems most Americans just care that gas costs more (though that’s more due to corporate greed than anything else)… jfc.

Ok… so why am I writing this? I think I write these emails, honestly, more for me than for all of you. Every time I feel compelled to write something to remind you that I’ve got your back should you need it, I guess I sort of try to remind myself that someone has mine, too… my own back-getter… and I write what I want them to tell me. So, what do I need to hear right now?

I have to constantly remind myself that I am human and what makes me human is how I behave like a human. To me, this means rising above the crap and stepping up when needed, listening, communicating, and doing good in mindful ways. And I believe you all are human, too, and, like everyone else, you deserve love and support as you try to step up, as well. There’s no reason to suffer alone, and, being there for each other means that we’ll eventually celebrate together, as well.

And, in truth, the last two years have not been without joy. I’ve met some incredible people these last two years. It seems like when I decided to open up a little and be transparent with you, many of you decided to do the same for me, and it’s just… I dunno… like… I find myself caring about you more than when I first started teaching years ago. And I find it more meaningful… maybe more stressful, but also more worth it.

I’ve seen some of you graduate and move on (and get engaged), and I’m super happy for you and proud of you. And, generally, I’m hopeful for the future because I think maybe the rest of us have done enough to support you so that you’ll return the favor for all of humanity, too. Maybe I’ve done enough. Life goes on (hopefully for a long, long time). 

Ok, enough pep talk. Haha. I’ll leave with this thought I’ve been having. You know how we sort of believe that symmetry is what is beautiful? Nature seems to do things in symmetry… but I recently was reading about chirality and how it seems like if you zoom down to the level of molecules and protein structures, things aren’t symmetrical anymore; they’ve got a “handedness” to them. My thoughts stem from there: on a surface level, we’re symmetric, but, ultimately, each of us is uniquely nuanced if you examine us close enough. Getting to know someone enough leads to the understanding that they’re beautiful, just like everyone else, each in their own way.

love, mark

P.S. Just want to make sure that you get help when you need it… If you’re a student, UWB has some really good counseling resources for both acute and long-term mental health and distress issues.

P.P.S. Some students have asked me to run a DnD or other TTRPG campaign over the summer. Let me know if you’re interested.

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