Sophia Ruan Gushee at a park full of flowers in NYC with her daughter

Back to school 2020 in NYC | the Universe has your back!

mindset Sep 17, 2020

My 2nd grader waving hi, as we walk home from a doctor's appointment near Washington Square Park in NYC.


As a grounded optimist, upon a challenge, I have become more aware that I choose how I want to view things: My perspective can see the positive or the negative. But it's a choice.

Of course, I have periods of sulking in hardship or exhaustion. But, my natural inclination is to bounce into a positve outlook.

Boy—COVID19 has really challenged this muscle though!

An unprecedented adventure: back to school 2020-21 in NYC

After living in Long Island since COVID19 entered our lives in mid-March 2020, my family and I moved back to NYC on Labor Day for the kids to return to school in-person.

Our older two girls (in middle school) are going to school in-person every other school-day while our youngest one (in 2nd grade) will attend every school-day. Of course, this schedule changes if a classmate or another close exposure tests positive.

Our return to NYC with kids 

Being back in NYC has been both wonderful and difficult.

Walking around a lot and driving for doctors appointments has been nice: The City feels safer than it did over the summer, more restaurants have lovely outdoor seating, there is less vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and the air feels cleaner. My mom chuckled after I described NYC as feeling like "a lovely small town..."

My experience so far has mostly been pleasant—a type of experience that I have not encountered in the media. But, I have been on a news detox...

I have been curious to see how the children benefit from connecting with the in-person presence of teachers and classmates—even through the barriers of masks, face shields, and distance.

So far, it's been invaluable! The warmth, care, and energy of their teachers and classmates permeate the physical barriers. I suspect that any in-person experience will be cherished. Back to school 2020 has felt rewarding so far after the past 5-6 months of restricted activities. We now have a lot to be grateful for, like many people wearing masks, and more friendly faces and caring energy that we receive despite the masks. 

After a few days back to school, the toughest transition about living in NYC is that we can't enjoy as much fresh air and physical movement. For fall 2020, there will be no afterschool sports activities for my kids.

I am mindful, however, that when there is the will, there is a way! And I truly look forward to the inventive routines we'll create for a balanced life.

The emotional roller coaster ride has started

The night before the kids' first day of school on Monday September 14, we received an email informing us that our 2nd grader has a classmate that tested positive so that my daughter's "class" would start learning remotely. Expecting my children to be in school as scheduled, I planned on spending this day working intensely for professional deadlines (creating and submitting a series of videos for Well+Good).

How'd it go?

Nothing went smoothly!

My 2nd grader was disappointed and sad all day.

Various apartment issuesdead lightbulbs and beeping smoke alarmsconstantly interrupted my work productivity...

The beeping smoke alarms woke me up at 5am one morning, then 4:30am the next morning...

Needless to say, the kids' first week of the school year started with lots of stress, angst, annoyance, exhaustion, and work obstacles.

The Universe has your back!

I woke up this morning remembering a time in my 20s during which I spent 14+ hour days working at a merchant bank in Manhattan. Demoralized by the dating experience at that time, I decided to immerse myself in work. Colleagues and bosses often asked, Why are you working so hard? You should be dating and having fun!

Tired of disappointment, I preferred the assured rewards from learning new things, honing skills, and evolving myself. Wondering sometimes if I'd spend the rest of my life single and if I'd ever experience the privilege of being a mom (but refusing to compromise my high standards), I often told myself, The right guy is out there for me... He's just maturing...

I started my day remembering that during the foggy state that precedes wakefulness. I think I was remembering it because I was searching for that attitude or mindset of my 20s that trusted that things would work out and that hard times pass. In the meantime, I should just do the best that I can. And adapt!

When demoralized in my twenties, I both chose to believe, and sometimes sincerely believed, in something that required trust that the Universe has your back, as Gabby Berstein coined.

Since COVID19 entered our lives in March (I still can't smell since losing it in late March), many plans have gone awry. One thing I find very interesting, however, is that this time has also been unusually creative and productive for my husband and me...

I have been extraordinarily hard working on a few projects that will help many more people pursue (and ENJOY) practical nontoxic living. But many milestones along the lives of these projects were harder than expected, took longer than expected, and just didn't unfold according to plan. 

With each hiccup or obstacle, I chose the attitude that supported the trust that, The right guy is out there... he's just maturing... 

With my recent projects, I trusted that the other factors that would influence my projects' place in the world weren't yet ready, but I chose to trust that things would work out in the end.

Because my husband and children are more fulfilling than I ever hoped for or imagined possible, they frequently reinforce my mindset that the Universe has your back. But, I also know that we each contribute to our outcomes.

In recent months, as plans for my professional projects derailed, I found myself repeating the mantra that the Universe has my back. And, when I least expected it, my projects were then blessed with unbelievable support and unexpected rewards, unfolding in ways that exceeded my imagination.

Which perspective do you choose?

As the school year commences, and challenges arise, I lean on: The Universe has your back, do the best you can, and then surrender and adapt to the flow because it will all work out—and maybe it'll work out even better than I can imagine right now.

Soon after I met my husband, one early moment when I thought he might be "the one" is when he said, Things always work out in the end. If they haven't, then it's not yet the end.

Our 2nd grader wasn't delayed too long from starting school in person. Turns out, her classmate had a false positive on the COVID19 test, so it was safe for kids to meet in person.

Who are you in your Universe?

As we collectively experience a back to school in 2020 and an evolving work environment, I think of the wide range of unique challenges that we face.

One thing that we can each do is choose a mindset that sees what we have to be grateful for. This includes seeing the opportunities we have to help those around us. After all, we are each essential players in both the greater Universe as well as in our own micro-universe.

So, let's also have each other's back. At a minimum: wear a mask when around others, avoid close proximity to others (especially crowds), wash your hands often, break the habit of touching your face/eyes/mouth frequently, and self-quarantine when you feel sick. This goes a long way in helping us harness COVID19, while also showing respect and consideration to everyone else.

In the end, the Universe could reward you with what you give to others.


Recommended content

Click on the button below to subscribe to my email newsletter for special offers, announcements, and new podcasts!

Deconstruct To Reconstruct.

Deconstruct your habits, mindset, and assumptions to reconstruct your home, diet, self-care, and technology relationship for a practical nontoxic and healing lifestyle. We're bringing consciousness to unconscious choices.

Start by detoxing your cleaning.

Join our mailing list and enjoy our free download of our beautiful Nontoxic Cleaning Guide. It shares the safest cleaning approach for you and our ecosystems.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.



This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

In no event will Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living be liable for any damages or loss of any kind resulting from the use of this website. Anyone relying upon or making use of the information on this website does so at his or her own risk.

Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

Nontoxic Living Simplified For You

In Your Inbox

Join our tribe by entering the info below!