Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Soapbox: Zoom University

Zoom University and Pandemic Proud is what so many non-traditional students are bringing out of a perfectly terrible global shutdown. I am proud to say that I joined the ranks with a little pandemic souvenir, myself.

Going to graduate school at midlife is an experience of which my peers and I often became incensed with humor about the way the world has changed since we were last students. Add the nouvelle psychosis of the ever-present Zoom connection, and discover a whole new reason to visit your optometrist a little more often.

The notion of solidarity for an extended period of time with a people group that began as strangers, yet became intricately known to one another, is a journey unique to our generation whether a student is 15 or 50. I am thankful for the experience and feel it added to my empathy as a Mom. In times when my son, a Zoom University student as well, announced that he did not feel he did as well on an assignment as he had hoped, I understood. Screen exhaustion is real. The desire for human connection grew deeper with each passing day of isolation. The only way out was to barrel through.

For this reason, I decided early on that I would form real life human connections with my colleagues, but I had no idea that they would become as meaningful and lasting as they did. It all began with our very first class together in the first week of our program. It is my belief that many of us, working parents, were pre-disposed to pay the fee, get the B, and earn the degree! One tiny problem was that we all failed our very first test without any inkling of just how awful we were in the eyes of our professor.

To be fair, nobody actually believed we were that awful, but we all agreed that this was going to be an awful time. Therefore, we made a plan. We banded together like gladiators in some coliseum, hoping not to be eaten alive. Four weeks into the first class, a high percentage of students dropped, leaving behind only a small remnant to make it to the finish line. Whether or not something seemed “off” about this couldn’t really be our problem. We decided that we would forge ahead and became the self-titled 5-7 Remnant, the last survivors of modules 5-7.

As the months elapsed, our gladiator group became famously known for having survived “that” professor, many of us pulling A’s over the finish line. It may sound silly at midlife to care whether a grade was an A or not, but I can assure you – we DID!!! We still have plenty of inside jokes about our case studies to this very day, because the humor kept us with a pulse in a dry and weary land without water.

We came from all walks of life with backgrounds as accountants, data analysts, and entrepreneurs. Each carried his own strength as we recognized it in one another. Additionally, we all learned the others’ weak spots and gave a hand during the rough days. Our sons and daughters got married. Our parents died. We had babies. COVID-19 stole the breath in our lungs. But we persevered, not because of Zoom, but because of the human person somewhere out there that was locked inside the tiny screen—and a lot of prayer! We shared our concerns and held each other in highest regard.

As I write this, I am making my preparations to meet my fellow gladiators and brothers and sisters in arms. For many, the world has not really gone back to normal. We have learned to use the mature term called “new normal.” Jobs as we knew them before have changed. Entrepreneurs are the dark horse to win the race in this post-pandemic world, creating opportunities for business in the current context for living. The world is depending on them.

So, while it might feel odd to surrender the framework of Zoom University, I shall never let go of the people. Most especially, the 5-7 Remnant. They will be forever in my heart as we advance into new seasons of life without our daily interactions. While many have already won the worldly prize of big money, I always felt compelled to speak my mind that Godliness with contentment is the greater gain. I wanted them to remember my words as I imprinted each friend in my memory bank, so I wrote this in their honor so they will always remember where true riches do dwell.

Where My Riches Do Dwell

There was a Me I used to be

Before this Me today.

Then all at once, this victory,

I gained with steps of faith.

Now what?” said I. The world has changed.

We live behind a mask.

The path is dark. I forge ahead

to hunt Thy noble task. 

Into your care my mind, my hands,

My heart will graft to Thine.

The gifts bestowed within my brow,

Your treasures rank sublime. 

No corporate game, non-profit fame,

Nor book I dare to write

Bring hitherto less glory than

Deserving of my life.

New world, new times. Fear not, Eternal!

Resurrection power stay!

My lasting mark, Thy tool impart

quick skills, this solemn day.

When vision dims, ideas delay.

My inner thoughts beg, Why?”.

Advance, Bold Sun and Clouded Globe!

My Maker owns the sky! 

A thousand hills belong to Him.

His cattle there reside.

Moneys sum, though seeketh me,

My riches dwell inside.

Contentments gain is great to hold,

Your child forever be.

The pierced grief of worldly roots

Be ever far from me. 

Enduring fight, both day and night,

My treasure shall I lay.

No hope in wealth, but One who Sees,

The times, Thy coming age.

Fear not, my friends, its not the end.

Firm stand on honor, might!

Foundations core will evermore

Bring life thats truly life

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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