Anniversary blues

Good morning friends,

The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the children are screaming in the neighbors’ yard, and there’s no denying it now: this week marks one year since many of us went into lockdown for the first time.

If you’re having feelings about this anniversary, you’re not alone.

This week’s newsletter is our attempt to grapple with our own feelings of exhaustion and outrage. It has feelings, rituals, mutual aid, and a tarot reading. We hope it will help. 🌱

In love and solidarity,

Hannah for the VFC



This week in feelings

Take this week's feelings survey

Two weeks ago we asked how you were feeling, and the answer is clear: y’all are carrying a whole year of exhaustion with you right now.

i'm just tired. and it's cold, and i never leave my house.

Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh. Everything is feeling particularly endless this week.

The pace of [my job] currently feels so relentless that I don't know how I can continue working.

it's disheartening to watch the students I'm teaching give up

my instinct is to go back to bed every single day.

It's a lot.

It is a lot. It is a lot.

It’s a lot especially if you are applying for funding to continue your graduate education, or fighting to get a contract renewed, or finishing your degree and trying to plan for your future employment, or facing escalating expectations in your workplace as if the pandemic were over and we had a lot of catching up to do. As so many of you are.

To those who asked for more feelings options on the apocalyptic side of the spectrum: we hear you. Especially the person who requested: “"I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore.” This week’s form has been updated accordingly. 🐠


Sympathology: a treatment for letting go

Sympathology aims to recognize, articulate, and manage the feelings that consume us through self-diagnostic reflection, prescription, and dispensation of medication. It builds on the structures and rituals of psychiatric practice while empowering individuals to identify their own needs and create their own treatments. 🐞

We asked Rachel Colwell, the artist and scholar who created Sympathology, for a sympathetic response to the exhaustion brought on by the pandemic anniversary. She offered three treatments for letting go of the past year.

  1. Burial: Write a list of feelings, memories, fears, or attitudes from the past year that you would like to leave behind. Fold the paper in quarters and place it in an envelope. Bury the envelope at the foot of a tree, shrub, or flowering plant. Let nature do the rest.

  2. Crossroads: Write down four elements of the past year that you would like to leave behind. Travel to an intersection: any crossroads will do. Walk clockwise around the intersection. At each corner, say an element out loud. When you have completed the circle, go around one more for good measure. You may burn, bury, or shred the paper when you are finished.

  3. Mailing: Write a list of feelings, memories, fears, or attitudes from the past year that you would like to leave behind. Put the paper in an envelope with a stamp but no return address. Send the envelope to a non-existent address of your own choosing.



Give your money away

If you’re feeling financially secure, maybe you want to mark this anniversary by giving some money away 🐣 We encourage you to support your local mutual aid networks, which often serve higher ed students and workers along with other members of your community. But if you’d like to be more targeted, here are a few higher-ed oriented places to give:

  1. Mutual Aid For Students in Classics

  2. Historians Relief Fund

  3. Moving fund for BIPOC grad students

  4. Microgrants for archaeology students.

  5. Mutual Aid for Texans (because they deserve a little extra love right now)



a little bit of good news

As we were finalizing this newsletter, a new COVID relief bill was passed by the United States Senate. We are cautiously optimistic about the material improvements this will make on people’s lives. Here are some higher-ed related provisions that were in the House bill, and that just might be carried over into the final legislation.

  • $39,584,570,000 in allocations to institutions of higher education to support covid prevention and financial aid for students (sec 2002)

  • Mandated maintenance of current state funding levels for schools serving economically disadvantaged student populations (sec 2003)

  • Over a billion dollars in support, collectively, for Gallaudet University, Howard University, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and the Bureau of Indian Education (sec 2005-2009)

  • Almost $500,000,000 in relief funds for arts and cultural heritage organizations, to be distributed by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (sec 2021-2023)


Dear coyote and bones,

What do I need to know as I prepare for a second pandemic year?

To help us answer this question, we drew three academic tarot cards representing what will help us, what will hinder us, and where we will find our unrealized potential as we step into this new year.

What will help us: Commencement, reversed

Commencement (traditionally “the world”) is the last card in the major arcana, which means it’s also the beginning of a new cycle. This card marks the accumulation of knowledge and the payoff of hard labor. It tells us that this is a time to celebrate, and that change is coming.

But reversed, this card is also a call for renewed patience. When we draw this card reversed, it means we may be seeking closure before its time. While we may be tempted to see this anniversary as an ending or a new beginning, this card is a warning that there are no shortcuts in this pandemic journey, and that carelessness now could have disastrous results. It calls on us to rededicate ourselves to the sources of strength and inspiration that have brought us here, and to find patience for the months to come.

What will hinder us: The Department Admin, reversed

The Department Admin (traditionally “the hierophant”) is a card that represents traditional knowledge and learned wisdom, as well as the institutions and social structures that codify them.

Reversed, this card is a warning that we cannot rely on our institutions and their traditions to serve us well. In fact, it may be warning us that in this moment, continuing to pursue traditional pathways to success will prevent us from survival and recovery in the upcoming year.

Drawing this card reversed tells us that instead of entrenching ourselves in tradition, it’s time to rebel, resist, and find new ways of moving within the world.

Where to find our unrealized potential: The ABD Reversed

The ABD (traditionally “the hermit”) is a card of reflection and introspection, a reminder to find space for inward attention. Reversed, this card tells us that we may be feeling forced into isolation by circumstances beyond our control, but also that we may have fallen into the habit of isolating ourselves even further.

I know that this is true of me, as the pandemic drags on and my zoom fatigue and general exhaustion grows. I am tired of virtual relationships.

But this card tells us that to realize our potential we must resist that instinct to isolation and reconnect with our community instead. The potential of this year to be a time of healing and of justice rests not on our own individual strength, but on our ability to support one another. Reach out. We’re here.


DH Awards 2020: vote now!

Did you know the VFC was one of dozens of incredible projects nominated for a DH2020 award? Take a moment to explore this list of projects and make sure to cast your vote!