It was two years ago this month that I wrote my first column for Delta. This month, for the first time in all that time, I couldn’t think of anything to write about.
Ah, well. I’ll just have to write about that.
My turn comes round every four weeks. Although it was every five weeks for a while last year because there was one more columnist at the time. I remember telling the editors that I didn’t really like that schedule. Having to write something every four weeks means you have a rhythm. But five weeks was just long enough for me to forget my deadline, which meant that I often had to come up with something at the last minute.
It’s been difficult again the last few weeks. The weekend before the deadline comes around without my having a plan. But this time it was not because I forgot the deadline. On the contrary, the deadline usually haunts me for well over a week beforehand. Over the last few weeks I simply haven’t gotten around to much thinking about my education, TU Delft, and the world anymore.
Of course there is still enough that annoys or baffles me. A bizarre bureaucratic adventure, for instance, or the fact that monarchies still exist. But being angry or surprised is not enough.
To write, you need to have something to say. An opinion. A proposal. An idea. And ideas, plans, or opinions that are less than one weekend old, are rarely worth reading. The columns that I’m most happy with, whether they are about lecturing, grading, or our Executive Board, are ones that I wrote after I’d already been reading, talking, and thinking about them for a while. And it’s exactly these things that I don’t seem to get around to much lately.
Everything requires more work and consideration at the moment. That training I was going to give to high school teachers, should I still do it? If so, how? And how rigorously should I scale back the plans for the festive ending to my course to keep the group of students present below 30 at all times? And will it still be worth it? Should I even ask students to come to campus at all for an event that isn’t really essential, now that we’re heading for a new lockdown?
All this means I have little headspace left for less urgent matters, when in fact it’s never been more important to keep looking beyond the needs of only tomorrow. After all, decisions are made every other day that will shape the course of our lives for years to come.
Still, I’m going to let my turn pass this time. This is also healthy in these months of crisis, as is admitting every once in a while that it’s all a bit too much. Admitting that you’re not able to do everything. So it turns out that I do have an opinion after all.
See you in four weeks.
Bob van Vliet is a lecturer at the 3mE Faculty and is specialised in design education. Reactions are welcome via B.vanVliet@tudelft.nl