'Embrace the abnormal': Great advice for matrics going back to school

Change is very unsettling and all we want to do it to go back to how things were.
Change is very unsettling and all we want to do it to go back to how things were.

Lindsy Carter-Bolus is an experienced Professional Certified Coach (PCC), a teacher and a mother of three kids. Here she shares her advice to students getting back into schooling after a long lockdown.

Dear matrics of 2020,

‘Back to school’ is finally here, but ‘as normal’ is a distant memory!

For eight weeks of lockdown and constant uncertainty, you have been sitting in no-mans-land.

For some of you, a time of not knowing, helplessness, frustration, shutdown, for others a time of fight, anger, tears, loss…and for most of you probably all of those feelings mixed up into one.

And now what?

Now you are expected to go back to school, and in a few months from now write your matric finals and then pretend it is all okay, that it didn’t happen?

It is NOT okay…and that in itself is okay! It has, is, and will continue to be a journey.

Here are a few tips I would like to share with you, to support you as you step forward (not back) into the classroom:

1. Acknowledge and reframe your loss.

You have lost out on so much this year — playing sports for your school, leading your society, your matric dance, leadership roles, all those matric rituals, and mischievous rites of passage.

On the 25th of March, it was all yours and on the 26th it was gone!

It does hurt and so it should, but to deny yourself this pain is to numb out to life.                                                           

Exercise: Set aside some time. Make a list of all those things you have missed out on and really feel into each. Acknowledge the loss and feel the pain.

Then, next to each jot down the backhanded gifts each one of these losses has brought, for example:

Loss #1: I never got to play first-team rugby for my school.

Gift #1: I have realised that rugby does not define who I am.

Loss #2: I missed my matric Dance.

Gift#2: I have incredible friends and we will have a formal matric Celebration on 26 March 2021!

Through this process, you are able to process your loss, yet discover the gifts and how you have grown through this experience.

2. Embrace the ‘abnormal’ and remain curious. 

Change is very unsettling and all we want to do it to go back to how things were. Unfortunately, we are not going back, we are going forward.

You may find yourself fighting the new abnormal and desperately trying to hold onto what was.

This is a human instinct, as with change comes fear, and fear brings pain …which we try to avoid at all costs.                                          

Practice: When you find yourself fighting the ‘abnormal’ and attempting to hang onto the known, try and work out where in your body you are feeling it. It may be a tight chest, heavy shoulders, and shortness of breath.

Once you have identified this trigger, use this as your internal compass, and in future, when your compass kicks in, listen to it and know you are feeling this way due to uncertainty.

Then, remain curious and ask yourself - What is interesting about this moment?

3. Let go of expectations and hold onto yourself. 

We all have our opinion as to how things should be and how things should be done. Every single person in your school has a different internal story around the coronavirus.

Some may be stunted in fear; others may be close to finding a vaccine and are ready to change the world!

Each and every individual will show up differently and subsequently react and behave according to their internal paradigm.                                               

Practice: Accept that each person responds differently and realise that only YOU can choose your thoughts and how you respond. In times of doubt, remind yourself: Even though it’s not ideal, in this moment it’s ok and in this moment I’m ok.

4. Maintain an infinite mindset. 

If there were to be a flood next week, it would be challenging, but we would prepare for it, embrace it, and rebuild afterward.

On the other hand, if we all lived to be 1000 years old, by now we would have survived 5 or 6 pandemics.

As a human race, we can get through this as we have done this before — there is light at the end of the tunnel! Life will certainly be different on the other side, but with an infinite mindset so many possibilities and different ways of ‘doing life’ open up.                                                                                     

Practice: When you feel stuck and limited, see yourself as being a 900-year-old person, realising that this too will pass and that there are infinite possibilities on the other side. Then ask yourself - How can I do this differently?

5. Be present. 

Many of you are so desperate to go ‘forward’ in order to catch up on school work etc. Absolutely and for sure, but do you know that you are living history? Be present, take it all in, observe, feel, embody this experience, and take lots of photographs.                       

Exercise: What really matters? What may seem so important to you now, may pale in insignificance in years to come.

Visualize yourself as an 80-year-old and ask yourself - What Covid-19 stories will I tell my grandchildren one day?

6. Play and be grateful. 

Lastly, you are STILL in school! Be grateful, make awesome ‘corona school’ memories, and treasure this time.

Play in the world, laugh until your stomach aches, and put a rubber snake on your teacher’s desk …after all you only have a few months left of being a school kid!

Matrics of 2020, you are pioneers in our new reality and it is no coincidence that you, our resilient 9/11 babies, are leading the way! Keep shining your lights and trusting your innate ability to navigate this territory as only YOU know how.

With love and gratitude,

Lindsy Carter-Bolus



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