As the end of 2020 is approaching, many individuals are reflecting on the disappointments, losses, and personal adversities that have come to light. This year has personally challenged me the most - emotionally, academically, and mentally. At 17 years old, this year made me feel like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. The 2020 United States presidential election, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and conversations about systemic racism, and the COVID-19 pandemic that is still very much at large due to the negligence of the United States government.
Since both of my parents have underlying health conditions, I had no choice but to prioritize their safety over my decaying mental health. For 10 months now, I have not left my house. I have not hugged my friends or shared in the comfort of those I love. Early on in the pandemic, I believed my anger at the repercussions of this pandemic was deemed a “first world problem” considering hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying. However, I learned to acknowledge that my feelings of anger, loneliness, and hopelessness are completely valid. I can acknowledge these emotions while feeling empathy for those who lost their loved ones to this disease. While my classmates and peers continued to return to normality and disregarded the CDC’s guidelines of social distancing, I felt more isolated than ever. Everything seemed so out of my control. I couldn’t do anything to change my circumstances except adapt.
In the midst of feeling isolated, I began to seek solace from those I could relate to. This pandemic affects individuals from all over the world. Throughout these past couple of months, I chose to interview international journalists to recount their year, and how this pandemic has shaped them.
Vanessa Richani, a Redefy chapter leader from Panama, recalls “I hadn’t realized how necessary it was to talk to my friends until we started having video calls… It’s very easy to isolate yourself and think you’re 100% fine until you become aware of how important visual human connection really is. Talking to your family all day isn’t the same - and can’t substitute - talking to your friends.” Encased in this quote, Vanessa perfectly describes a feeling we can all relate to during this time: the longing to see people that we miss.
Another Redefy journalist, Luodi Wang from China, describes a similar feeling of adjusting to his country’s lockdown measures. “I remember it was unbearable for my first 10 days inside with me adjusting to this new style of life. Whenever I had the chance to stand out on the balcony in the treacherous, windy winter of Northeastern China for minutes straight - sometimes 10 minutes, and to me, that was a feeling of ‘freedom.’
Nana-Hasia Asankomah, from London, United Kingdom, describes other factors besides isolation that has negatively affected her mental health. “My mental health has been all over the place. The culmination of the pandemic, racial injustice, and academic pressure has been emotionally and mentally draining. It burns me out, but I have been dealing with this by choosing which matters I want to give my emotional attention to.”
Nana-Hasia’s end quote brings to light how many were able to conquer this year: it is through adaptation and valuing one’s emotional energy. With everything seeming so negative this year, it is hard not to fall down a hole of hopeless thoughts. I began to genuinely appreciate the health and safety of my family, and my friends for being emotionally present even if I could not physically see them. As 2020 ends, the world will soon turn a new corner. A new year does not automatically mean everything will return to normality, but it does offer a significant amount of hope.