2020: A Defining Year In History
2020: A Defining Year In History8 mins 270 8 mins 270
2020 has been testing the capabilities of mankind.
For some, it meant losing their jobs. For others, it broke relationships and snatched the lives of millions. For people like me, it was an interesting time that forced me to introspect and reap answers within.
Since the beginning of the year, the troubling instances that followed - the pandemic, protests, and the global loss of faith in the future has left little hope and faith; rather, fear has taken its place.
Is this a mental pandemic?
More and more people are losing their peace of mind, getting sucked into the toxic, hungry quicksand of the media. Many of us couldn't manage to get a good night's sleep without tossing and turning in our beds. Although the mental impact isn't obvious, it has been a tiny worm slowly chewing at our peace and well being. What an irony the past few months have been.
Mental health has definitely seen a dip this year, considering the distressing media consumption least spoken about, the threat to life. Just a few weeks into the pandemic, a sense of well-being had been washed away by a communal feeling of panic and fear.
My thoughts as a student
As a middle schooler, this pandemic meant a lot more to me. I appreciate how our education remained unaffected despite the pandemic. Contrary to popular belief, this academic year has been the most stressful in recent times. While we expected a temporary delay and slowdown in our academic life, we saw the opposite happen.
This seemed like the ultimate rat race of the education system, with institutes scurrying to prove their success in what is beyond their capabilities, without any consideration of parents, teachers and students. Several parents, some unemployed, were pressed for paying tuition fee for their children at a financially demanding time. Lifetime savings were slowly reduced to a trickle, as people struggled to cope up with the mounting costs.
Students and teachers alike have been forced into the technology sphere, without proper guidance and time to learn. Teachers, in particular, have been put under immense pressure to conform to the technological needs of this time, without any prior experience. The quick turn of events and lack of information, experience and guidance with tools was a rude shock to several in the education sector.
As a student, I feel that there are several major concerns with online learning that are still left unaddressed. I am a student with plentiful privileges and the resources or exposure needed to tackle this situation, but not all students have the same. Many of my peers struggled to attend classes, or even worse, failed to attend classes for weeks, trying to cope with no proper environment or resources that they otherwise would receive in their classrooms. It would have been much easier if our curriculum was tailored keeping the situation in mind, for it only burdened parents, teachers and students, not to mention their personal struggles.
Overall, I felt the education sector exploited this difficult situation for their own gains, with little to no consideration of other's plight. But, it has also opened a new sphere of learning and has elevated the average education experience, as new tools and technological aids entered the education scene.
The loss of humanity
People lost compassion and humanity, as they feared for their lives. The doctors, nurses and policemen who worked day and night, some collapsing from exhaustion, were ostracised and cornered in their own communities by those ignorant of the magnitude of their sacrifices, for they were frightened to put their lives at risk. Fear and ignorance blinded many of the immense sacrifices of the humanitarians.
And its revival
On the flip side, 2020 also marked one of the greatest unions of humanity. Being locked in our homes heightened our awareness and sense of community. It opened our eyes to the quiet injustices that often went unnoticed in our busy lives. Be it George Floyd, or Manisha Valmiki, the supposedly 'short' attention span of citizens could not remain an excuse to tolerate crime.
The pandemic threw light upon the dysfunctional, cold eye of racism in our community, and led to increased self-awareness and reflection of both races, of how white supremacy and privilege has affected their lives. For some, this revelation has translated into cultural pride, and for others, shame over their identity. Of course, we are still in progress, as people begin to grapple with the idea of racial equality and show acceptance, which still has a long way to go.
2020 also pointed out narcissistic leaders who confidently spread hatred and endangered the lives of millions of citizens. It put a lens on the public eye of scrutiny, and instilled a sense of fear and responsibility in future leaders. The global dream of the Land of Nectar has now crumbled for good.
As one who has witnessed this firsthand, I can confidently say that this experience has changed our definition of heroism. Doctors, policemen and sanitary workers, like warriors, rose to the occasion, and urged forward with a strong sense of meaning and purpose. Many fed and looked after the hungry, stray animals for months. Each took responsibility and up to today, our heroes still serve us selflessly, risking their lives. The field of medicine now receives newfound universal respect, and it has taken a disaster as devastating as this to prove it.
Dedicated doctors worldwide have earned souls for a lifetime, and this has inspired the younger generation to aspire for such heights.
How we evolved as a family
Family dynamics and ties have changed forever - some for good, some for the worse. I have heard of strained relationships that were severed and came to a natural end for good. It was the best time to tackle the elephant in the room - the difficult conversations brushed aside for years, or setting the boundaries that needed to stay.
In my case, due to the mounting pressure, quarrels became commonplace, and we finally understood why we couldn't tolerate each other throughout the day. Yet, it strengthened our bond from within and pulled us closer to each other than ever before.
People learnt to look inside themselves. Many recognised the cracks and fault lines in family, and made sincere efforts to repair them. Many more delved into introspection, and learnt to let go and begin healing, inside out.
Finally, family time and investing in relationships received the the care and attention it needed.
How connections have changed
An embrace, a simple gesture of emotional connection, were replaced with virtual emoji hugs. Why? Because we were scared it would endanger our lives. The loss of human connection strained virtual conversations - it couldn't match a real, meaningful conversation. We were so afraid of letting our lives on the balance, it only resulted in trapping ourselves in the darkness we have created within us.
Lessons learnt for life
Even after weeks of the first COVID case in the city, the severity of the situation still hadn't sunken in. I felt what many did during the early stages; an irrational sense that the virus would not affect us, that it was not worth the speculation. Yet, sanitizers were flying off shelves for much longer, which is when I realised we were about to face something much bigger.
The long stay home and the enveloping uncertainty has definitely strained our mental health, especially living in what is considered one of the least social generations in history.
There are those of us enjoying the comfort of our couches, many that are struggling to make ends, and many more, six feet under, who don't have a life to live.
This period of being static has taught us to be in the now. It has opened our eyes to the several cracks and fault lines of the society we otherwise would brush off - dysfunctional world leaders, expansion of healthcare, quality education. It has taught us to value freedom and good health, which most of us take for granted. People have switched from being tourists in their house to loving and nurturing their homes.
This pandemic has urged us to dig deeper - for some, it meant picking up that whisk, or the book they've always wanted to read, or repairing that broken relationship that had been tossed in the background. Some had found their true selves amid the chaos. For me, it meant pursuing a subject I've always wanted to dip my toes into - psychology and neuroscience. After all, there was no better time for it than amidst a raging pandemic.
I identified and put in effort to unlearn unhealthy thinking patterns and coping mechanisms. Of course, the emotional pressure occasionally got to me, but I tried my best to walk through it with a composed mind. In the beginning, I fell into a toxic productivity trap, where my to-do list will cause me unbearable anxiety and social media made me doubt my self-worth. Eventually, I learned to come out of it and change my perspective. The pressure to be productive slowly vanished and I learned to take each day in my control.
Ten years forward, there will be a moment, when you look back at 2020, and remember haunting nights of uncertainty and emptiness, but also a time that gathered the strength and hope of humanity, when we managed to wrestle against a claustrophobic, numbing time. It feels almost unrealistic, that we've watched a year pass by all while in isolation. It is ironic, how this year ended on an uneventful note before we knew it, but it had also been the time we were plagued with the biggest problems.
2020 has opened new paths, and has empowered the average student and entrepreneur. It has introduced a plethora of novel platforms for channelizing talent and learning, while it also gave nature a much-needed breather. Although our new hopes for 2020, the beginning of a new decade, melted away over months, let us keep the glimmer of hope flickering for 2021, with our changed selves and lives altered for good.
Mankind will carry this battle scar and the lessons it taught for years to come. Now, we are in it together more than ever. If this tiny clump of lipids can turn so many lives upside down, imagine what we can do in unison. Despite the results, we are now left with a wild, historic tale; a story of darkness and joy to engage our grandchildren with and will teach them, like how it taught us, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.