Chapter 21: Pandemic Edition

21 is the year that is often looked forward to if you live in the United States. Something I would have never expected is for my 21st year of life to be spent wearing masks as we live through a global pandemic. Though this year has been a rollercoaster to say the least, it definitely is a year worth of reflections and lessons. As my birthday approaches, here is a list of things I’ve learned and will take with me into the new year.

  1. 1. Be open-minded to new possibilities.

    Things unfortunately don’t always turn out as we want. Exhibit A: 2020. With a worldwide pandemic, many changes were made. Still, pandemic or not, it is fairly common for things to not happen as we expect them to, regardless of how much you plan or prepare for it. Taking things as they come has allowed me to deal with disappointment and turn it into a learning experience that has shown me the different opportunities that are out there.

  2. 2. Learn to unlearn.

    With many of the things that happened this year in relation to social justice issues in particular, it made me realize how important it is to continue to learn. It doesn’t matter if you think you already did your part or how “woke” you think you are, there is always something new to learn to become better allies with members of our communities. This also means taking the time to look into your own bias and unlearning things in order to be better, even if it's uncomfortable.

  3. 3. Practice self-care and love in all forms.

    When we think about self-care, many automatically think of a spa-day and call it a day. Don’t get me wrong, spa days are great, but that's not the only type of self-care/love you should practice. Self-care and love is taking care of your body, staying healthy and creating good habits. It’s taking breaks and checking in with yourself. It’s setting boundaries and realizing your worth. This wasn’t easy, but it was possible by truly setting time aside to build on these habits. After years of wanting to be consistent in the gym, I finally made it a priority for myself and my health as well as going to therapy to work on building healthier habits such as better sleep, dealing with stress and self-empowerment. No matter how much you want to work or help others, you can not water others if you are running dry.

  4. 4. Just go for it.

    As someone who is an overthinker, this was definitely something hard for me. Before doing anything, I tend to think about the different outcomes that can occur. Although this can be helpful, it can also just create stress and worry about things that haven’t happened or may never happen. Whatever it may be, if you have a good feeling about it, take the risk and go for it. We often stop ourselves from applying for jobs or pursuing certain things due to the fear of rejection. Of course, no one likes rejection, but it's better to try than to never know the answer and live with the what-ifs. Like my mother always says: “El no ya lo tienes, pero que tal y te dice que si.” “You already have a no, but what if they were to say yes.”

  5. 5. It’s going to be okay.

    This year has been challenging. There were moments where I was really worried about my family and their safety. There were moments of fear and sadness for everything lost. Still, one feeling always remained, and that was hope. It is definitely super hard to stay hopeful in times like these, but things will be okay. No matter how dark a tunnel may look like, there’s always light at the end. Have faith and remember that you will get through.

  6. 6. Be grateful.

    Fortunately and thanks to God, my loved ones and I are still breathing. Though there were plenty of upsets this year, there were also great moments. Life presented me with a few professional opportunities that helped formed networks that will help me in the long run. Through the help of peers and professors, I’ve made it through a semester of Zoom University. I was lucky enough to see new views and family members like my grandparents for the first time in years. Finally, I got to meet so many great people this year and create new memories that I know will live forever in my memory. Like a quote I read said, “Remember when you wished for everything you currently have?”

Though this was everything other than what I expected 2020 to be, it taught me a lot about humanity and myself. Being 21 during a pandemic was definitely weird, especially at such a strange age where you’re technically an adult but you still feel like a teenager. Regardless of the situation, I am grateful to have lived to see this year and for the personal growth it’s given me. Here’s to 22 and to an even better 2021.