While we hit the year mark of the start of quarantine, I, like most other people, have an abundance of mixed emotions about this past year — I mean everything from mental health to relationships to school and on and on. And with the U.S. hitting the year mark of when everything shut down, I find myself reflecting on everything that occurred both to me and the world this past year.
I both view quarantine and the shut down as a blessing and a curse. On one hand, almost a year ago to this day, March 10, 2020, I was sent home from my semester abroad in Europe. Standing in front of Buckingham place, watching the changing of the guards while visiting London with my friends on March 8, we received an email from the University letting us know that we were being sent home within two days. Even as I write this I’m getting my Snapchat memories of the last brunch and dinner that my friends and I shared in Limerick — and yes, I’m lowkey depressed. Yet, on another hand I’m extremely grateful for the two months I did get to spend in Europe because if I had waited until the following year, I never would have even made it.
Now, as I sit here thinking about leaving Europe and everything shutting down a year ago, I have an eerie sense of Déjà vu. It feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in my house completing my courses in a fully online format — nothing has changed, and yet, so much has changed.
While I may feel this sense of Déjà vu overcoming me when I think over the past year I realize how much has changed for both me and the world. I almost don’t even know where to start with my reflection.
The pandemic brought with it an extreme amount of grief it and I don’t want to take away from that by any means. But when I look back on the time I was able to spend at the beginning of quarantine simply relaxing in my home — before we knew how bad COVID-19 truly was — I’m not exactly mad about it. The next time I will be able to just sit in my house and spend aimless weeks reading and doing whatever else won’t be until I retire and am done moving through life to get educated and make money. So, while this pandemic was difficult, I do cherish the first few months of quarantine in an odd way, before we knew how long and how bad this pandemic would grow to be. I had no sense of urgency to get to work or get my school work done for the first time in years and for what will be many decades to come.
Yet, while I enjoyed these first few months of being stuck inside my house and reconnecting with myself, many did not get this luxury. They were directly affected by the pandemic, whether by being essential workers, contracting COVID-19, having loved ones affected by or die from the virus, having to close their businesses, and just so many more problems that arose for people. I was lucky enough that my family was not essential workers and that we could stay home and avoid the destruction that was slowly overtaking the country and the world.
There are simply so many thoughts swimming through my head that I have for everyone who was directly affected by this virus through the course of this past year — and for those who will continue to be affected until we, as a county, reach herd immunity from the vaccine. Thank you to the essential workers and my deepest condolences to anyone who lost someone or something important to them.
However, as the months began to drag on and on and COVID-19 just kept getting worse, I began to realize the horrifying extent of the pandemic that we were living through. And, as we began to learn more about the virus, many people’s true nature began to show. Let’s take a look at the mask mandate and the protests against this mandate. The number of people that simply do not care to protect others because they themselves are young, healthy individuals who will most likely be alright if they caught the virus was horrifying to see. Wearing a mask is not difficult, at least I think it’s a lot less difficult than knowing you’re the reason someone’s grandmother caught COVID-19 because you were asymptomatic and spreading the virus as you refused to show basic human compassion by putting on a mask.
The pandemic also opened a gateway for Black Lives Matter protests that went on for months and that allowed an influx of people to attend who were currently out of work and had the time. And, hopefully, these issues will not stop being talked about and brought to light when things begin to return to some sense of normalcy.
One of the biggest changes we saw over this past year was the change in leadership for our country with the election of and inauguration of President Joe Biden. While I am thrilled that Trump is now out of office, Biden needs to be held accountable through these next four years. And as I am sitting here watching what Biden is doing, I am still just wondering why if we have a democratic president and a majority-led Democratic Congress there have still not been gun laws passed. Even in the midst of members of Congress being forced to shelter in place and fear for their lives during the insurrection at the capital, there has been no talk of banning guns or passing strict gun laws. If an adult member of Congress was terrified for their life, imagine how innocent children feel in that same situation and pass legislation that will help protect them in the future. School should be safe.
In the face of all the changes the country is experiencing through the pandemic, college students still have to push on with mainly virtual learning and mental health is taking a hit. Virtual learning simply is not the same experience as in-person learning. For one thing, somehow not being in the classroom each week leads many professors to think students now have twice as much time as they currently did and they are loading up on homework. If anything, students should have less work to do because of the already pandemic-induced anxiety and hits on mental health they are facing.
This influx of school work has students busy to a point that they can’t get a mental break. And one mental health day given to students by their school does nothing — it ends up simply being a day to catch up on all the work you are behind in. While Spring Break isn’t a viable option if the goal is to prevent students from taking trips and bringing COVID back to school, why not a “light” week in its place? In place of spring break, give students a mental health week, where there are still classes to attend, but there is no extra work tacked on for the week. This alleviates the issues of students traveling as they would on spring break but gives students a break from the constant stress they are facing.
Mental health has plagued many people outside of students during this pandemic, so it is important to check up on your friends and be there for anyone who may need some help during these ongoing difficult times.
In terms of relationships, the pandemic has taught me that you don’t need to constantly see and talk to your friends. It’s alright to take a week and not talk to anyone if that’s what you need. Friendships do not need to suffer just because you don’t live together at school anymore or you aren’t talking every day. Some of my closest friends I’ll go weeks without talking to, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there if I need them, we just all have lives and various things going on in our lives that we need to take care of.
This past year has both felt like it lasted forever and felt like it flew by — I mean I really can’t tell much of a difference between March 11 of this year and of last year, yet so much has occurred. However, thankfully with the vaccine now being administered, we can see a light at the end of this year-long tunnel.