I reflected a lot on this turbulent, tragic, and life-changing year in 2020’s final days and weeks. I can’t discuss what happened in these past twelve months without mentioning the damage that the virus wreaked, from the hundreds of thousands of American lives that it took, to the political divisions that it widened. It isn’t a wholly novel situation for us as a society, but for almost everyone alive today, it is, and I hope we never have to experience anything even remotely similar to this again in our lifetimes.
I’ve written too much on the negative aspects of 2020; I want to use this blog to talk about the year’s small silver linings, both for me personally, and for our country as well. When my university sent me home in March, during the last semester of my undergraduate career, I admit that I went home willingly, simply looking at it as a week-long vacation from the grind and exhaustion of college life. That happiness quickly wore off when I realized I would never come back. But, looking back at these past months, I realize that the time spent at home has given me plenty of family time that I never would have had under normal circumstances. COVID life has taught me the value of spending time with loved ones, and the absolute necessity of family.
Quarantine has also given me time to simply sit and think about what I want to do with my life once I leave the house. Rounding the bend into my senior year, I was chomping at the bit, ready to graduate and immediately head down to DC to find any job I could. However, from around the time my semester began wrapping up in early May, I decided to start sitting down in quiet every day to develop a well-thought out plan. I had time to apply for a Fulbright, get a fantastic internship here, and now I am working on applications to two of the top master’s programs for Conflict Resolution in the county. I’m sure many of my fellow 2020 undergraduates would agree that COVID gave us plenty of time to think about our future careers.
Stepping away from my personal experience, I recognize that COVID has done much to bring out the worst in people. But I’d like to argue that it has also revealed our compassion for one another, as well as our resilience. The majority of Americans have willingly accepted daily inconveniences to protect one another, as well as those who care for the sick: spending months working from home or going to Zoom class, wearing uncomfortable masks, and accepting the closures of places like hair salons, gyms, and arenas. I have also seen communities unite together in creative ways, like with drive-up food pantries and car parades to thank essential workers, like healthcare workers and teachers. After a brutal year, these signs give me hope that we will emerge a stronger, more consolidated society, something especially needed after years of fierce political polarization. I imagine we will celebrate the first day without COVID restrictions like we celebrate the end of a long war.
2020 will be remembered for its tragedy. But I believe that part of being human is making the best of any situation we find ourselves in. The government has failed to protect us physically and financially, but I think that, in some ways, we haven’t failed ourselves and each other. Myself and I’m sure millions of others who are at a crossroads in life right now have taken this time to carefully plan out our next steps. And once this pandemic finally ends, my hope is that we will finally put politics aside to celebrate and live alongside as Americans, who made it through one of the biggest crises in modern history.
by David Traugott