Tomorrow will have been one year since I wrote a blog post I never knew I would ever write.
A year ago this past week, COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic, and I along with all of my classmates were booted off campus to go home at the end of spring quarter. It was amidst packing up, saying our goodbyes, and somehow completing finals that I was reassured that my approach to college was the right decision: live it to the fullest. Those first two quarters, I sought most to attend whatever events, concerts, or talks I could. I made more time to just be available and present for my friends, hung out by the shop more often, and cherished all of those moments.
In around January of 2020, I was up late in a friend’s dorm room talking about the possible issues that could be arising from the coronavirus that was infecting folks in China. We were all concerned, but didn’t know what else to say or think besides “Well if it gets here, things could look really bad… But we have midterms going on so we’re not gonna focus on that.” Those sentiments only began to heighten the more cases were discovered here in the US. By the time the WHO began giving daily updates that I was finding on my Twitter feed, I started to realize things were about to go south. In the final days talking to my close friends about when we’d possibly ever see each other again, the earliest we’d seen things going back to normal would be winter quarter (right now). We didn’t know how things would turn out, but we had hope that we’d either controlled the virus or all gotten vaccinated somehow by then.
I’ve spent so much time alone drifting in my thoughts about what the hell all of the past 12 months being inside has been like for me. As I’ve written throughout the past year, much of which is documented on this very blog, I’ve gone through various forms of grief, anger, exhaustion, and numbness. I have not been hopeful at times, nor have I given myself the chance to always accept that I may not be where I want to be mentally. After a few months of being enraged about how people wouldn’t take the pandemic seriously, my reactions have become muted (but still angry). I went through the phase where I questioned my judgment about whether I somehow was taking things too seriously when I saw no one else outside my immediate family seeming to care. But maybe after five minutes of doubting myself, I snapped out of it and recognize that both people do not care about others and that the state propagandizes us into not having the collective care and empathy necessary to fight this pandemic.
I went through the phase of both initially watching Tiger King, then deeply regretting why I ever put myself through that nonsense. I went through the phase of driving for the sake of just driving, listening to the tunes that I wished I could share with my friends in the same room. I went through the phase of endless Zoom calls with friends, studying for exams, and just catching up (this is still a thing). I went through the phase of both devouring books and also barely making it through a chapter in a week. But in everything that I’ve done this past year, I feel like it’s both been no time and decades since that world pre-masks and pre-social distancing has become our reality.
After the tiny stimulus bill passed this week with a one-time $1400 payment (where folks who received money under Trump may not even be eligible, which were also unclear and inequitable), it’s clear that we are all somehow just expected to return to “normal.” By normal, I mean shut up, get vaccinated, and go straight back to work. Whatever trauma, loss, ongoing grieving that many people are still feeling today is just supposed to be brushed under the rug. I will be the first person to say that given my class privilege, much of my life has been unaltered aside from staying in. But I’ve never gauged or thought the world should ever function based on the position that I inhabit within it. I am excited of course about things slowly getting better and getting together with people again. But I don’t want pre-pandemic “normal,” a world where folks have always been struggling to make ends meet, where mutual aid continues to help people survive, and where student and medical debt continues to rise.
For as difficult this year has been, it’s also been so crucial in my maturation. It’s not that I don’t recognize who I was pre-COVID but I feel like I’ve evolved to not seek to be more empathetic, but also to learn how to dream bigger. Yes, my political consciousness has expanded exponentially (you can pinpoint those developments here on the blog), but I think what has come with that has been a sort of calmness. Maybe it’s the pandemic and not having much to do, but I just practice hope and optimism in people. I think that having some core principles that I feel confident in living my life through has just allowed me to reduce the stress that I feel about things beyond my control. That doesn’t say that I’m not frequently overwhelmed, nor that I re-evaluate where I am constantly. But I’m just writing, reading, learning, and now organizing in some way that I hope could eventually get us all closer towards the world I have to hope is possible.
This past year was awful. I don’t think anyone would ever deny that. But the one thing I will say is that the friends and comrades I’ve met, the memories I’ve made, and the writing I’ve done this past year are the most meaningful parts of what I’ll carry with me from these times. I don’t have much of a thorough or insightful take about the past year, but I do know that I’ve evolved into someone that I generally appreciate more. And I’m grateful that despite the things that have been thrown my way this year, I’ve found new ways to tackle whatever challenges are to come. And, whenever I get vaccinated, I am looking forward to just being able to share some of those new stories and reflections in-person.