“Welcome to the ’20s. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.”
Last January, I wrote an article welcoming the new decade, ending it with that line above. Within a month, I sighed at how right it was. Within six months, those sighs turned into mask-smothered grimaces.
I won’t waste anyone’s time in recapping the year we have all endured. It’s been publicized and posted everywhere. From a global pandemic to killer hornets to aliens, 2020 has had it all.
So, I’ve spent the better part of this year thinking about this very article. And how I would inevitably write about 2020 after giving a hopeful send-off into the decade.
Better yet, as the deadline grew closer, I had the perfect situation to sit and ponder my thoughts when my brother and I tested positive for COVID-19 four days before Christmas.
Thankfully, I’m asymptomatic. But the wheels began to turn. My family was floored by the news. My parents were rightfully stressed as they had to quarantine themselves as close contacts despite testing negative.
Christmas Eve came around, with my older brother and I quarantined in our rooms, and it hit me that hundreds of thousands of Americans are doing the same thing. That so many tables in our country host desolate people staring at empty seats. My family had the luxury of using Zoom, where I could still see and talk to them. While my family’s Christmas spirit was dampened, it was temporary. But with COVID-19 claiming the lives of over 330,000 people to date, those empty seats hold a different meaning.
For too many, this is the first holiday season for those who lost someone in an unforgiving year. This year tested all of our mental fortitude and it broke many. I still remember having a panic attack in March after learning that I would not be able to complete my spring semester in-person at Quinnipiac University. That I would be spending the rest of the spring in lockdown.
But here we all are.
Those who know me understand that I’m an eternal pessimist. It’s something I’ve worked to improve upon despite the events of 2020. But it’s incredibly important that each of you know the role you played in someone’s life during the times of suffering.
Because this year, it happened to all of us. Everyone had to grow stronger and persevere, partly for ourselves but also for others. My friends played an important role of keeping me sane. They gave me something to look forward to when times were tough in the spring and summer. My family got me out of bed each day while working hard to keep things normal during abnormal times. Hell, people who read my articles make me smile and are forever appreciated. That’s you.
Everyone falls into some category of that. I’m incredibly proud of the work you put in to make someone else’s life a little bit better, because we all needed it.
It’s also paramount to note the good that has come this year. Mental health is no longer an afterthought. Between the myriad of catastrophes in 2020 and celebrities like Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott speaking out, mental health is no longer a topic that gets brushed aside. Suicide accounts for 11% of teenage deaths (ages 15-19), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s something that will get the attention and funding it needs after the trials of this past year.
Social justice is also something that cannot be ignored. It sadly required injustices to be noticed, but it sparked national discussion and was the major focus of the presidential election after months of protest. With Joe Biden set to be sworn in as president, the right steps can be taken to ensure a better future for all rather than some. Regardless of your political affiliations, everyone can agree the nation needs unity rather than division.
Even as I write this, I’m still sitting in my little quarantine cube of a room, with Christmas presents littered around that were left in the hallway rather than under the tree. I know the Times Square ball drop on Jan. 1, isn’t going to change anything. Next year will still be filled with hardships.
However, I know that we can get through this because we just got through the toughest year in recent memory thanks to your commitment to being by someone’s side.
Winston Churchill said it best: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” There’s a light at the end of this tunnel — let’s help each other reach it.