When thinking of 2020, it is hard to glean a silver lining from such an overwhelming sea of bad memories and worried thoughts. What first comes to mind is the coronavirus pandemic, the surging racial and political conflicts, and friends and family that never made it to 2021. Yet even through all the hardship, if you look hard enough, there is some light in the darkness. The struggles of 2020 were awful, but they were communal struggles. As the struggles got harder, our communities grew stronger because nothing brings people together like shared hardship.
At the beginning of the pandemic, my sense of community was shattered. I was halfway through my eighth-grade year and soon into quarantine when I realized I wouldn’t get to have the regular eighth-grade experiences like our class trip, the annual picnic, and a proper graduation. Things began to change as I got further into the pandemic. I realized that one of the few things that wasn’t destroyed by the virus was my community. I began to have hope again as I witnessed and took part in things like drive-by birthday parades, friend group “get–together” zoom sessions, and online community campaigns like Instagram’s stay–home initiative. My community and digital neighbors across the country and world were coming together to help each other through a communal struggle. As my teachers worked hard to make online classes interesting and efficient, and my friends came up with creative ways to stay in touch, the strangling loneliness became easier to bear. With online school every weekday and weekly zoom sessions with my friends, I realized I was still strongly connected with my community. People began to reach out more often because they knew if they were struggling most others would be as well. Although I was missing so many events and opportunities, I felt that I belonged to the community more than ever. We had a shared goal of getting through our problems together. I felt motivated to wear a mask, stay socially distanced, and push for racial equality because I knew it would help my community and we would come out of 2020 stronger, even if a little bruised.
I learned a lot from 2020. I realized the importance of community. Even in a global pandemic, I can be strongly connected to my community and cyber neighbors across the world. With widespread vaccines on our horizon and 2020 in our rearview mirror, we must be inspired by the hope of a better future and never forget the struggles of our past.