A long march: Change can be hard, but sometimes for the best when a pandemic hits

I cleaned out my office at school last week, and I’m now a full-time remote worker.


Taking down the tattered interoffice extension list that hung over the phone for about a decade was a much more emotional experience than I anticipated it would be.


So was dusting off the photograph of a bicycle propped up against an Irish cottage that my dad snapped when he and my mom visited the Emerald Isle back when people could travel.


I’m still doing my job from home, and in a lot of ways, it is easier to get work done from my dining room table.


Especially because much of my day is consumed by writing projects, for which I need longer stretches of concentration than the space between school bells that ring in the hallway outside my office, snapping me back into reality and telling the students it’s time to head to algebra.


Or chemistry.


Or lunch.


Sometimes when those bells rang, my daughters would pop their heads in my office to tell me about the latest gossip or about how they fared on the test they’d been worried about or to tell me about their plans for hanging out with their friends after school.


Mainly, though, they’d ask me for money for the vending machine.


As of late May, both of my girls are high school graduates, so my days of commuting with them to school already have come to an end.


In a way, I’m kind of glad that I won’t be spending every day of the coming school year without having either of them as a passenger for my 40-minute commute from West Park, through downtown and uptown Cleveland, and into Shaker Heights.


Even though I spend a lot of time driving with the radio turned off, that particular drive would be a little too quiet for my taste.


The trunk of the family minivan is still stuffed with the office supplies and reference materials I’ll need for my new work-from-home life, along with the big stack of alumnae magazines I edited over the course of the last 13 years.


When I packed it up, I figured that my kids might someday get a kick out of sifting through this material.


But more than likely it will just gather dust up in the attic.


It’s so easy these days to connect with your work and your colleagues remotely.


When I last had this kind of gig—in the days when I was a media consultant, freelance writer, and mother of toddlers—the modem moved at a snail’s pace.


When I needed to cure my writer’s block in those days, I took on a second career as an online sweepstakes junkie.


It was much more fun to instantly win a $500 check from Lunchables, a red and yellow Slim Jim-branded three-speed bike, and a year’s supply of Hebrew National hotdogs (that’s 12 whole packs) than it is to doom-scroll Twitter or watch an endless stream of videos of people making nightlights out of dried flowers and epoxy resin.


But that’s a story for another time.


My kids weren’t the only ones who had friends at school.


I collected my fair share of lifetime people in those halls too.


Of course, they’re still my friends even when I’m not in the office, but I’m sure going to miss seeing them in real life each weekday.


As the coronavirus continues to rage unabated, it makes a whole lot of sense for me to work from home.


Vacating the space means there’s one less person contributing to the density on campus, and more room for the students and teachers to spread out to keep themselves safe.


I’ve never been very good about managing closing chapters.


Which is why this column seems to keep going when I know you got my point a long time ago.


It’s funny how comforting a familiar routine can be:


Turning the car onto I-71 North and navigating the same route I’ve navigated a million times—at least.


Turning my key in the office door and saying good morning to my colleagues.


Turning the dial on the heater under my desk in the winter and cranking on the ceiling fan in the summer.


Turning to face out the window and admire the beautiful courtyard that sits over my left shoulder while my computer fires up.


I’m sure going to miss those things.


But change can be good too.


Even in the midst of a pandemic, life has a way of marching on.

Read more articles by Kathleen Osborne.

Kathleen Osborne is the mother of three children who now are legally considered adults, although she has trouble assigning that label to herself. She is the marketing and communication director at Hathaway Brown School, where she’s inspired by creative, smart, and confident girls every day.

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