Well, we finally made it. The past 11 months have been… generally underwhelming to say the least. I know that at least for me, the end of 2019 was supposed to mark a new, exciting chapter in my life. Graduating from high school, turning 18, applying for colleges and internships, having all sorts of new and fun experiences at NJIT for my first semester of college… I pictured it all so differently. Ever so inspired was I, swayed by naivete and hope. No one could have been prepared for this grand betrayal of fate. It seems like time has either stopped or skipped, with the past 10 months melting into some weird, recurring nightmare. And especially when I couldn’t go to the senior prom that High School Musical 3 promised me, the one I’d been looking forward to for 10 years running: I felt kind of robbed.
Between murder hornets, wildfires, riots and seemingly the longest “flu” season anyone has ever seen, 2020 has been hell-bent on dashing the world’s hopes and aspirations at every step of the way. And I don’t even want to mention the election, or that train wreck of a Mulan live action film you got our hopes up for. It’s just not fair! Have we not been worthy of a saving grace? A single glimmer of happiness in this well of endless disappointment?
But now that I think about it… It seems unjust to just chalk 2020 up to a no-good-very-bad year. Even with the start of my life being tripped over at the starting line, as it were, there have been moments of hope, simply too often obscured by the trivial obstacles that the year has looked to have an apparently endless supply of. This certainly was a year of firsts— good and bad.
First and foremost, college has gone relatively smoothly. When I first moved in this past September, once I got past all of the paperwork and the immunizations and legalese, I was ecstatic. Plopping down that last box of clothes and hometown memorabilia on the small little sliver of my double suite, I felt strangely at ease, and at home. After months and months of seemingly endless quarantine, moping around my parent’s house, endlessly looking for an escape— like a melodramatic Rapunzel in her epidemiologically sterile tower— I was waiting for just this chance, this moment where my life could begin again. This was the space I would make my own in the next few months – and the space where I would become the infamous “college student.” “Bring it on,” I thought to myself, as I began to organize the productive workspace picked out for me JUST the way I wanted it.
But moving into my dorm wasn’t even the start of the firsts. Turning 18, I also finally got to go to the DMV to get my full-fledged driver’s license, and boy was that a trip. I camped outside that socially-distanced DMV at 5 in the morning, waiting in line until 1 in the afternoon, hungry and tired… being handed that piece of plastic felt like pure freedom. Now it’s not like as a freshman I’m keeping my car on campus or anything (parking fees are a killer), but to receive something as nice as this little card to demarcate progress along my path of life is really a blessing.
I also had my first voting experience this year, which was very cool. I’ll admit, this one wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, especially since I mailed in my ballot. But the principle behind it, that being an official member of functioning society, a kid like me was going to voice a nationally pertinent opinion, made the pen I used to sign my name feel like the weight of the nation was balanced at the tip.
Even during this year of firsts, I find it important to reflect on the constants in my life. Back in March, we didn’t get to choose who we were going to spend the rest of the year trapped in a house with. Granted, for most of us that was our family, but there wasn’t much of a better option really. For some of us it was a struggle, and for some a joy, yet for all it was a chance to reconnect. My family was already very tightly knit before COVID-19, but lockdown, for better or for worse has collapsed all of our separate lives into one household and has helped us to better understand each other’s spheres. Every day I’d wake up, have 9 periods of class sitting 5 feet from my brother, and 10 feet from my mother, a teacher of the same grade level. It did feel a little weird at first, all of us under the same roof 24/7 like we all had nowhere better to be… and I was getting some serious pre-elementary-school flashbacks when my mom cut the crusts off of my PB&J one morning. But whether we worked, studied or played, we did it together again, during a time of terrible uncertainty and global despair— and I think there’s something especially poignant about that.
When all is said and done, what’s there to say about the whacky year of 2020? What can be learned from all this? Time and time again we have been faced with world-shattering developments, and yet we are still here, thriving and surviving. Hearing about the grand catastrophes from the safety and comfort of our quarantine shelters, we even have the gall to be merry and make fun from time to time, in the face of the apocalypse. Despite time seeming to stop in this endless year, we never stop hitting milestones, or finding new things to experience. Time stopping also gives us the break I needed to truly appreciate what I have, and the people that I was temporally frozen alongside with. No matter what happens to us, through hell or high water, we are always able to adapt and find that glimmer in the well, that crustless PB&J. We are all survivors, and as long as we live and breathe, we’ll never be beat. So, thank you, 2020, for being the year that has truly shown us that when times get tough, the world is more than ready to break the mold, and keep on keeping on.