What now? Writing while socially distancing when you’re supposed to be releasing a book and helping the world thrive.

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My name is Brian Peterson. I direct Makuu, the University of Pennsylvania’s Black Cultural Center. I teach a few classes at Penn as well. I’m also a husband, father, writer, publisher, and generator of ideas.

Over the past few months I’ve been quietly working on the third edition of my book Higher Learning: Maximizing Your College Experience. The original dropped in 2010, and at different points in recent years I’ve thought about doing something different with it. 2020 seemed like the perfect time, so I went back to the literal drawing board and completely rewrote it, starting back in November. This process saw the book evolve from a 220-page fairly decent but slightly outdated reference tool on college success to a fresher and sleeker nearly 100-page personal guide on thriving in college and life.

Finishing a book project is such an exhilarating feeling. You’ve spent all of these days and hours (and for me, I’m an early riser, so it was many quiet and dark mornings) pouring over outlines, style, length, content, and research to map out the right sentences and chapters to do what you set out to do. After weeks of grinding, you’re finally done. You then switch to 100% business mode (and as a publisher, that part is on me too), getting things ready for the world. All of my attention was now on producing and circulating crispy clean paperback copies of Higher Learning: Maximizing Your College Experience, Third Edition at upcoming College Signing Day events, graduations, senior seminar workshops, summer bridge programs, and more. Then COVID-19 cancelled the lives that we never imagined could be cancelled in such a way.

I’m now sitting here on my living room sofa typing these words. It’s 10:16am on Thursday*. I should be at work, at Makuu, sending emails before the flurry of students come into the space for lunch and their afternoon release, or to ask for help with any number of things to summon the motivation to close out the semester strong. Instead, I’m waiting on an 11am virtual meeting, similar to the many other online sessions I’ve had this week using all sorts of digital tools and services that we apparently had all this time but never used. These have been my only points of contact with people outside of my immediate family. Penn is also on it’s second week of spring break. There was never supposed to be a second week of spring break. None of this was supposed to happen.

What’s next? This is the trillion dollar question, and no one has the answers. But here we are, together and socially distant in this mess, praying for the health and safety of our families, our friends, our communities, and those on the front lines doing everything they can to provide comfort and support. I’m going to use this space to post some thoughts along the way — about life, and family, and working from home, and Higher Learning, and college/life success, and fear, and hope, and possibilities, and change. When I was wrapping up Higher Learning I decided to keep writing daily and share something on my socials. This particular format, timing, and set of circumstances was not the plan. As I’m sure D-Nice didn’t have “reach 100,000 folks in a kitchen-counter global IG party” in his New Year’s resolutions. We do what we can when we feel the call to move. Hope it helps somebody. See you tomorrow.

*I wrote this on Thursday. I’m posting it on Sunday. I debated with myself in between whether this was the thing to do. Optimism > Pessimism.

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