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Joanna Thompson
Director, Office for Multicultural Learning

Distance. [dis-tuhns] The extent or amount of space between two things, points, lines: the state or fact of being apart in space, as if one thing from another, remoteness.

They always say, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” I never realized how true this expression could be until distance took over my heart completely. For those who may not know, I am an only child, born in Virginia and raised in Maryland, located on the East Coast. For the past year, I have been working from home in California, which is located on the West Coast. For the past year, it has been a challenge to be away from my parents for the longest time I have ever been in my 33 years of life; being separated by an immense distance as we work and live on opposite coasts. The last time I saw my parents in person was August 2019 when I traveled home to celebrate my mom’s retirement. Although I have not physically seen my parents for almost 2 years now, I am grateful we have been able to stay in contact via text message, phone calls, and Skype. However, in the moments where the distance between us seems to shorten just a bit, it never feels quite the same as a hug from my mom or a high five from my dad. Being away from my parents during this pandemic has brought about many emotions for us as a family. At times, we rejoiced in happiness, knowing that we all are and continue to remain healthy and employed. At times, we sat in sadness as we shared tears over phone calls, wondering if and when we would see each other face-to-face again. As I think about this past year, the distance between my parents and I has not only made my heart grow fonder – for family and for home, in general – but it has forced me to reflect upon what fills the space in between us. This can be seen through the silly gifs my parents and I send one another via text that spark laughter; to opening Christmas presents together on Skype even though we are 3 hours apart in time; or mailing one another cards just because we can, to let one another know we are thinking of them. The physical touch of my parents may have been absent for almost 2 years due to distance, but the emotional touch of my parents has been present throughout this pandemic year despite the distance. That emotional touch makes it easier to accept the distance as a sign of hope and not as a sign of despair.

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