Watching the Times Square Ball Drop has been a tradition for me for many years to welcome in the new year. I remember watching it drop on TV this year and popping confetti poppers the moment the ball dropped. I was so excited for the new year, I had just turned 16 and this would be the first year I could drive. I thought that this year would be my year, the year I grew up and could experience 16 the way every Disney movie I watched when I was younger had portrayed it. Everyone had very high expectations for the year 2020, it was the start of a new decade so it had to be good, right? That was what I had thought too, at least until the spread of Covid-19 began to hasten. That was when everything started to change. The whole world practically went into quarantine mode due to the global pandemic. I realized that 2020 would definitely be a lot different than I ever could have expected. Looking back, it still had a lot of good.
Saying the year 2020 has been good is not the easiest thing to say and at times it can even feel forced. MIllions of people have become sick and hundreds of thousands of people have died from exposure to the virus. Luckily, I have not yet experienced the loss of a loved one or relative due to the virus, and I sympathize with anyone that has had to undergo that loss. At the same time, I realize that I am still not safe and that at any moment someone I know and love could be affected by this virus, and it has created a lot of anxiety for me.
Quarantine’s purpose was to prevent the spread of the disease and keep people healthy and safe. I suddenly wasn’t able to see my friends every day at school, or visit my family members, or even feel safe in public spaces, like stores or restaurants. I was finishing up my sophomore year of high school when we switched to virtual learning. Even though I knew that shutting down schools was overall for the safety of my community, it still felt like part of my high school experience was being taken from me. I had been looking forward to some of these events since I was in grade school, and I don’t even know what these events will look like if they take place. School dances, holiday celebrations and events, especially ones that are out of state, are almost unfathomable for me at this point.
I think that I have finally come to terms with the whole pandemic situation. I try not to worry about the little things that I worried about at the start of quarantine, like concerts and going out. I have found a new perspective on almost every aspect of my life, and I feel like I have a better understanding of what is most important to me. My health and the health of my community should come first. I am still processing that not everyone is as fortunate as I am, I am lucky to have good health, and I still have access to an education and seeing my friends almost every day. I have tried to express how much my friends and family mean to me, and I don’t let small things frustrate me any more.
I always knew that I loved my friends and my family but I didn’t realize how much people really meant to me. When you don’t get to see everyone that you used to every day, you really start to miss them. It was comforting to get a call or a text from a family member or anyone, just to see how you are doing. It is so valuable to have a network of people that are willing to help you. I know that they were always there for me, pandemic or no pandemic. I am learning how to be that person for others and I hope that by the end of this journey, I will be even more caring for others.
With quarantine came a lot of time for reflection and creative ways to fill your time. I had more time to get to know myself and understand what I liked to do. I started to paint, which I wasn’t too great at, and learned how to embroider which I liked because it was slow paced and I had a lot of time to think while I did it. I also learned how to cook, and I made several meals that I was really proud of how they turned out. I even invited some of my friends to come cook with me which was really fun and I hope to have more cooking gatherings in the future. I know that I would never have enough time to try out all of these hobbies if it weren’t for quarantine and without it, I might have never known how much I would enjoy doing these things.
As of now, I still do some of these hobbies and regularly see my friends at school or social distancing like getting ice cream outside or visiting parks. I still get stressed out when I think about the pandemic, especially how I don’t know when it will be over. I am beginning to understand that there will be no returning to a normal life and that my high school experience will never be normal. I am optimistic when I think about how I will come out of this stronger but there is still part of me that misses the old me. I barely even recognize the person that I once was but I honestly feel like I am happier and more open than ever before. I am excited to get to know this new me, the me that cares about others and the me that cares about myself.
Moving forward, I want to keep doing the new hobbies I have developed and just find more things that make me happy. Once the pandemic is officially over, I will take with me all the lessons about perspective and self-reflection I have learned through quarantine. I now know how to make the most out of a bad situation. 2020 has thrown me every bad situation in the book and I have survived for the better.