By Brianne Larson

Seven weeks ago I was waking up at 6 am, pulling my tired, yet excited body out of bed and pouring a massive cup of coffee into a to-go mug that would be chugged during my 15-minute commute while Lauren Daigle poured hope into my ears. 

Seven weeks ago I was rushing into the school building, an overflowing bag heaved over one strained shoulder, my lunch in one hand, and a huge smile on my face. Hurrying into the building I would get swallowed up by the front doors and spit out into a sea of beautiful children. 

Seven weeks ago I was standing outside my classroom door with purpose. Hellos and good mornings were exchanged by colleagues and greetings given to each grumpy or happy child that entered my door. 

Seven weeks ago my ears were ringing at the end of every day with “Miss Larson” stuck on repeat in my head. Children’s faces filled my dreams. My heart ached and soared along with theirs. We laughed and we cried, sometimes together and sometimes apart. 

Seven weeks ago, I was in the hardest yet happiest place I’ve ever been in my life. 

Today, and every day for the past seven weeks, I roll out of bed and leisurely make my way to the coffee pot. I sip my coffee while it’s hot, and make myself breakfast to go along with it. Lauren Daigle on my car stereo has been replaced by the morning news. Facts seem more important than hope right now. 

Today, my phone beeps every time the numbers climb and each beep brings with it another ounce of fear. 

Today, the average amount of steps I take in a day is less than 200. My days no longer consist of rushing in or out of anywhere. There is no hurrying or hellos or goodbyes. There is only this 800 square foot apartment. There is only this space. 

Today, this space feels empty, even though it is filled with furniture, books, and food. The emptiness isn’t in the physical space though. The emptiness comes from the quiet. 

Today, my mind is no longer whirring with things to do and children to love. I no longer have a mile-long checklist. I no longer have a single thing written in my planner. 

It has been seven weeks since I received a hug from someone outside my household.

It has been seven weeks since I felt the joy of exhaustion after a long, hard day on my feet. 

It has been seven weeks since I saw friends or family. 

What am I to do with all this space? I think this is a question millions of Americans are asking. What am I to do with all of this time? What do I do to fill the emptiness? What can I do to fill the quiet? 

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but in order to make peace with this reality I have come to look at this situation in a certain light. 

One of my fellow teachers says that teaching is like giving each child a gift, but the child gets to choose if/when they open it. 

I believe this time and space we’ve been given is a gift, but we each get to choose if or when we want to open it. 

Maybe opening this gift looks like turning off the news and putting Lauren Daigle on again to let hope flood this space. 

Maybe opening this gift looks like calling Gramma more than once every couple of months. 

Maybe opening up this gift means starting on the memoir I always say I want to write or reading the giant stack of books I always say I’ll read. 

Maybe opening up this gift means cracking open the stiff pages of my Bible. 

Maybe opening this gift means loving the people in this space with me in a new way, in spite of their shortcomings. 

Trust me, this is not an easy way to think or feel about our current reality. 

Some days I just want to watch Netflix on a constant loop and eat a whole tub of ice cream. 

Some days I feel swallowed in the depression and anxiety that this is never going to end. 

But there are still good things, and there are still blessings amidst all this hardship. So I challenge you, reader: are you going to open this gift?