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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

While it was hardly the infamous start-of-the-decade year we all expected it to be, I think 2020 will be a year we will all remember for a while. It was a year of struggle, hardships, and challenges for every one of us. 2020 threw us a “What are you made of?” on a silver platter and everyone was forced to face it head-on. We shouldn’t minimize the situation. We need to acknowledge the pain, the sadness, the fear, and the grief caused by the pandemic on a personal and professional level. But while it’s been rough, we have to focus on knowing that we can and will overcome this. It’s not an easy task and requires commitment as well. One way to start is by making choices. 

Every year, I like to do this little self-care reflection. On New Year’s Eve, I write a reflection, a letter to future me (that I read on New Year’s Eve of the next year), I reflect on the goals I set for myself and write new ones for the new year. We have definitely had a few ups and a lot of downs this year but for this reflection, I choose to focus on the ups. 

Personally, this year left me feeling a little speechless. It was relentless to say the least and yet, this was the year I feel like my life started. This is weird considering the many people who felt like it had ended in quarantine. Like most, I went into the year expecting some sort of great welcome into the new decade. And then… a worldwide pandemic hit, among other things. Despite the craziness going on in the world, I managed to stay connected, stay updated, stay productive, and stay healthy. 

The year 2020 was one where I learned to love myself. With so much extra time, I was forced to slow down and figure out the things I wanted for myself. I rediscovered my love of the arts, music, journaling, drawing, writing – outlets that helped me release my emotions, and handle the tough times. I spent a lot of time in nature, hiking, running, and exercising at least a couple of times a week which made me feel amazing. I stopped giving myself lists upon lists of things that needed to get done, that which always used to make me feel inadequate. I became okay with having a calendar lacking saturation. Connecting with myself, connecting with the physical world around me, and connecting with people from all over the globe is what kept me sane during this pandemic. 

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The year 2020 was a year of firsts for me. I had my first kiss, and went on my first date, and allowed myself to explore the possibility of real happiness. I met someone who I consider the best thing that ever happened to me. Along with a couple of other really great people across the world. 

The pandemic really gave people the chance to make connections. Social media and online platforms became huge as people across the globe were searching for connections to fill the boredom that quarantine caused. For me, it really did. I have friends from everywhere! I loved feeling connected to the world and knowing that everyone was going through a similar experience and yet had such different stories. Connecting through a screen didn’t diminish the value of the interaction and it reminded me of the power that true connection has between people. 

Opportunities came in rare forms. School ending early last spring was a blessing in disguise and saved me from the very toxic situation I was in with my roommate. I remember when we first got that email, and everyone was talking about it like it was the beginning of the end (which it was), and all I could think was, “Great, I don’t have to live with my roommate for two weeks!” Many lost their jobs and took it as a chance to move on and find a new career path. Many people found jobs through contact tracing or in the medical industry as there was an endless supply of people who needed help. 

Somehow, I feel like I’ve had more experiences this year in quarantine, (while still being safe) than I feel like I’ve had in the rest of my life. I took the train to Boston on my birthday, I found a waterfall in the middle of a local hiking path, I took a lot of late-night drives on the empty roads, and took pictures in a park on a sunny day. It was definitely one of the more interesting years of my life, to say the least. 

In all the craziness, hidden opportunities, and speechlessness this year offered us, I think for one, I’ll never be able to unsee some painful realities this year threw our way. The year 2020 challenged and tested us and no one was safe from the hard situations. But I think in spite of the chaos, I have managed to find my own version of happiness and adventure. I created a view of optimism that I know will help me survive and adapt. When I look back on 2020 years from now, I know that it won’t just be tainted by the tragedies that occurred, because it will be the year that I found myself in the midst of a crazy year.

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Myna Chadalavada

U Mass Amherst '22

Myna is a senior neuroscience and biochemistry double major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is passionate about her research in emotion regulation and wants to find a way to use her words to change a life. You can find her in the greenhouse, on a rooftop garden writing poetry, the 23rd floor of the library with a book in her hand, or a room with a piano.
Contributors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst