COVID-19, presidential impeachment, racial uprising, loneliness, government mishandlings, economic recession. It’s a new year in school: don’t let those things ruin it
By Melissa Stefanec
2020 will be a year to remember, and mostly for unpleasant reasons.
The annals will demonstrate a year filled with illness, death, racial uprising, loneliness, government mishandlings, economic recession and human ignorance and selfishness. We are in the midst of a global crisis.
In a year with so much conflict and loss, many of us feel robbed — robbed of the expected, the reliable, the earned and the necessary.
At its most dangerous, COVID-19 can take lives. At police brutality’s worst, it can do the same. These are frightening truths in dark times.
It’s a crisis’ ability to destruct that takes such a toll on all of us. That potential and realized destruction makes it hard to be grateful for what we still have.
No matter how well trained we are in gratitude, it’s only human to mourn the loss of what should have/could have been. When you find yourself in a dark place without a lot of light, here is a list of things 2020 can’t take away from you.
1. Your education
There will be concessions, but no amount of isolation or accommodation can take your education away from you. Make up your mind that you will give your education the bulk of your energy, and don’t look back.
2. The beautiful views of Lake Ontario and Oswego River
One of the best things about going to school in the Oswego area is the unbridled access to Lake Ontario and the Oswego River. Water has a calming effect on many people. Use your access to water to your advantage. It’s a lot easier to put difficult things in perspective when you are staring at something beauteous.
3. The unfaltering support of your professors
Educators are a resourceful bunch. Professors are going to do everything they can to support their students during this unusual time. They have one job to do, and that is to teach you. How great is that?
4. Your right to eat Easy Mac in sweatpants
Unless there is an instant macaroni and cheese shortage, nothing can take this right away from you, not even a global pandemic.
5. Your lifelong friends (as long as they stay well)
Sheltering in place has made us recognize how much we value the human connections in our lives. Now, more than ever, we should be nurturing our lifelong friendships. We may not be able to see each other in person, but our close friends are just a letter, email or virtual meetup away. When you can see someone in person, take advantage of that opportunity and engage safely. Relish in that connection.
6. Your family (as long as they stay well)
Whomever you consider your family to be, no matter how far away they are, a family is something you have on your side. Lean on them. Let them lean on you. Let this experience make your relationships stronger. Invite them to engage in a safe way. Respect each other’s boundaries. Give them the attention they deserve in the safest way possible.
7. Social media
For all its ills, social media is a reliable platform during times of uprising and turmoil. Used properly, it can help us support each, support strangers and connect, other all without physical interaction.
8. Your right to exercise and breathe fresh air
Exercise and meditation may be two of the greatest weapons against sadness and indifference. Physical activity elevates our mood and convinces us of how capable we really are.
9. Your ability to support others
A lot of us feel relatively helpless right now. The best way to stop that feeling is to be a helper. Find someone in your life that could use some support and lend that support. If you can be the best version of yourself 2020, you can persevere in all the years that follow.
10. Your ability to give back to the community
Don’t let 2020 put an end to volunteerism and charity. Many nonprofits have come upon very difficult times. Be the change you want to see in the world and (safely) give your time. Skip a coffee a week and make a $15 donation at the end of the month.
11. Time to hone a skill
If there is something you always wanted to get better at, now is the time. Typically, time is in short supply. These days, the days and nights feel a little longer. Capitalize on this opportunity and get really good at something.
12. Time to learn something new
Similarly, if you’ve always wanted to try something but just couldn’t find the time, now is the time. Try that new thing. Fail at it until you get better. Let 2020 be the year you learned to play guitar or identify 30 kinds of birds. Let 2020 stoke a lifelong passion.
13. Your ability to embrace conflict without active fire
Right now, much of the world is wildly misaligned on politics and social issues. People are fired up and not afraid to fire. In 2020, be the person who mediated. Be the person who actively listened and engaged with the other side. Be the person who learns new things, changes old mindsets and inspires others to do the same.
14. Your ability to befriend people who are different from you
If you engage with people in a healthy manner, make 2020 the year you became friends with someone with a wildly different background. Empathy is integral to solving tough problems. Exposing yourself to different perspectives and learning from others will turn unsolvable problems into mere challenges.
15. Your ability to better your GPA
Use this year to give your GPA the bump it deserves. You have the time. Use it wisely. You won’t be disappointed in yourself.
16. Your capacity for fun
Ingenuity and adaptable are two skills you should always work to improve. The most successful and happiest among us are those who find solutions when others make excuses and those who keep moving after being knocked down. In that theme, find new and safe ways to have fun this year. Don’t let 2020 rob you of joy. You deserve happiness.
17. Your personal growth
Define what personal growth looks like to you this year. Then, spend time and energy to get there. Character is defined by how you act in times of adversity. Don’t let the dire state of the world diminish your strength of character. Let this adversity build a better you.