FI Members in the Times of COVID-19

The photo above portrays how our weekly meetings look like now. And they will look like that for a while. Probably yours do too —or your classes.

At the Futures Initiative we wanted to share how each of us is feeling these days. No academic stuff, no deep reflection, no need to sound smart. It is usually difficult to express with words our feelings. In times of a crisis like this, that difficulty can become an obstacle. So much, that we might not even be able to identify what we are feeling. We wanted to give it a try and show you how our inside looks now. Maybe a bit like yours?

Cihan Tekay: I often find myself thinking about people who have to be physically present at work — not only healthcare workers, who are on the frontlines and highly exposed to risk, but also grocery, delivery, and other essential workers, who have been making sustaining life possible for everyone, regardless of where they live and work. 

Lauren Melendez: During these uncertain and anxiety provoking times, it is my faith in God that keeps me optimistic that we will see brighter days ahead.

Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.​

Katina Rogers: I have two little kids, and trying to balance work and childcare during such an anxious time has been difficult. My way of coping (in addition to regular therapy sessions) has been to focus on the moments of joy and beauty that caregiving can bring, from baking muffins together to watching movies to hearing the kids collapse in giggles. I try to bring that spirit to my work, too, and share moments of hope and beauty with my team and with the FI community. I especially love when our team shares photos of things they have seen or created during these strange times. 

Kashema Hutchinson: During this time I search for things that uplift my spirit, including but not limited to comedies, music and running. As an educator, I have found that one of my sources of joy is my class. My students just want to be. I hold class for the full session and even longer while we learn from each other. At the onset of transitioning to distance learning, the main question has been: “How can we be there for our students?” However, I am learning that without them I may have had a harder time. I find joy in going into class and teaching, I don’t harp about the world around them but I teach them ways in which to be critical of the time that we are in.

Adashima Oyo: 

Dear COVID-19, 

When I first heard about your arrival in China, I didn’t pay you much attention. I didn’t take you seriously until you made it to America, unfortunately. Did you not like that so many people took you as a joke? Now, you have demanded the attention of everyone around the world. COVID-19, in a really short period of time, you have managed to turn everything upside down. The Governor of New York said we are all on “pause” because of you. I don’t know how successful I am each day, but I’m trying to get used to this new normal…this “pause.” Since your arrival, my home has turned into my permanent workspace. It wasn’t that long ago when it was only used as my place of solace. Before you came, I used to luxuriate in the library uninterrupted for 8 hours. Now, I can only work uninterrupted between the hours 10pm and 5am. Because of you, I’m forced to have various meetings all over my home, and my son likes to make unannounced appearances at these meetings. He doesn’t care if I’m trying to instruct a class on Zoom or if I’m trying to have a conversation with my dissertation advisors. My son doesn’t know what’s going on or who you are, COVID-19. I hope that he never meets you. Whatever lesson you are trying to teach us, COVID-19, I hope that we learn the lesson and that you leave. 

Siqi Tu: As a dissertation writer, I just let go of many “should-have” ideas during this uncertain time. It seems that life did not change much, especially for those of us who are already mostly home and sitting in front of a computer, trying to crunch out more writing, therefore one “should have” live their life as it used to be. I still try to do that: celebrate home cooking, strengthen yoga and pilates practices, meditate daily, and go for a walk in the park in the paths less traveled (although increasingly more afraid of the mass when the weather is actually good). With that said, I fully acknowledge that I am not very focused, needless to say productive, and I accept that without feeling frustrated instead, with self-compassion. It is ok to try to live your life as “normal” yet internally feeling the pains, loss, anxiety, and uncertainty, both on a micro- and macro-level.  

Cathy Davidson: Everyone, I hope we all remember to be kind to ourselves.  All normal expectations have to be framed within the context of surviving, together, in what is a monumental crisis of global proportions.  Please be kind to yourself.  And to one another. This will end. And, after a while, life will return to something like normal conditions.  For now, getting through—individually and collectively– is a mission, a goal, and a heroic aspiration. Each one/teach one. Care one/share one. Thank you all for caring for yourselves and for one another.

Michael Epstein: Things certainly have been upside down lately, and yet, life and work continues. Focusing on small, completable tasks – and being OK with things taking a little longer than before – has been valuable to alleviate stress. Outside of work, cultivating small, tangible moments of levity has been especially helpful. Reaching out to friends and family, baking an endless stream of sourdough bread, learning some new songs on the guitar, settling in to watch a feel-good movie with my partner (and my cat) – these all have brought very necessary moments of peace among the often distressing news.

Christina Katopodis: I live in a small apartment so it’s impossible to separate work from home. At first I worried that this would compromise my professionalism but, when we all need human contact during this period of “social distancing,” it didn’t seem to do any harm to let my 4-month-old baby gnaw on my finger while I was on a video chat with my department. It kept him quiet and happy and allowed me to show up for my colleagues. The levity and celebration in the messages and smiles we got during that virtual meeting confirmed for me that there is kindness in the world. My son does not understand that I have work to do. If he wants to be held it must be NOW. Instead of getting frustrated, I’ve learned to love those snuggles now, not later. He is, after all, only this tiny human size once.

Sujung Kim: It’s hard to write something when I am filled with so many complex thoughts and emotions. It’s really difficult to pull out words in the midst of the heavy silence of our undergraduate students who are in precarious circumstances to resonate their suffering, anxiety, and frustration… Yet, ironically, I am appreciating a glimpse of sunshine: I’m renting a room in a small house, and with little accessibility to use the living room, I mostly stay in my room. Yet, I’m imagining my room is not one room but a multiple of very tiny but cozy rooms including a greenish tearoom, a gym where I can practice yoga, a bedroom and a study. I’m pursuing an ambitious project by taking as many pictures as I can to capture the beautiful changes in the flowers and trees in my neighborhood. 


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309