CORONAVIRUS CHRONICLES: UPS AND DOWNS OF 2020, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

SARAH SHARPE WRITES — How did we get here?

It is September of 2020. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that this has been one of the most challenging years of my life. It feels as though everything has gone awry, and I know there is still more in store. I can feel the anticipation, waiting for the next major California fire or earthquake to put a cherry on top of this year’s events thus far.

During the summer, I was traveling back and forth between my family home and my apartment in Los Angeles. Even though our world was shut down, I was just happy to spend time with my family. Many of my friends from high school had moved home by semester’s end, and I was excited to be spending time with them.

But things have changed.

With a rising rate of infection and climbing death toll, the risk has become too great, and I can only spend time with my family if I have a negative COVID test. I have become isolated, living alone in the city. I feel as though everything I care about has been taken away from me.

One of my friends, Allison, is in a similar position. She returned home at the beginning of the pandemic after her study abroad program in Italy came to an abrupt end.

As an Asian-American woman, her lineage being Korean and Irish, her experience with this pandemic has been different than mine. I feel as though the fight is centralized here, in the States, but her connectedness to Korea pulls her in two different directions.

“I feel frustrated. I worry about both my family here and my family in South Korea. I have no clue when I will be able to see them next, and I know that they probably won’t be welcome here if they do try to come and visit.”

She worries about the treatment that her elderly Korean relatives will receive if they come to the U.S., considering the fact that many Americans see Asians as homogenous, and they will place their anger about the virus on to her family.

While I cannot understand the anxiety that Allison has regarding her family, I can understand her grave disappointment in the direction her academic life has taken. She was working as a counselor helping kids who live below the poverty line in Boston. Allison has wanted to become a psychologist for as long as I can remember, and I hope to go to law school to help underserved communities. Our career plans have not exactly followed the path we had hoped for.

“I wanted to stay in Boston to keep connecting with the kids I had been working with for months before the pandemic, but the program I worked for got shut down, and I had no choice but to move home. I was finally starting to dig into my passion, and it all got ripped away from me in what felt like 60 seconds.”

Like Allison, I feel as though I had finally pinpointed what I wanted to work towards. I had just started studying for my LSAT and was looking for jobs in legal offices when things began to change. Suddenly, job openings disappeared off of LinkedIn, and notices were sent out from companies to applicants that they were no longer looking for new employees. I used to feel like the world was at my fingertips, with so many incredible opportunities staring me in the face. But now, every opportunity that was an arm’s reach away has drifted away, and I don’t know when they will be back.

It is October of 2020. Restaurants that I used to frequent have closed their doors for good. A socially distant Halloween is right around the corner, and people are chomping at the bit to partake in festivities. I know that it won’t feel the same, but I am determined to make the best of this year’s Halloween. While Allison has decided to stay at her parents’ house for the holiday, I am dying to get out of the city and have a good time. I decide to go to Las Vegas, a potential COVID hot spot, for the weekend with some friends.

You may think to yourself that I am ignorant, uneducated, or just plain stupid. But I made this decision knowing the inherent risks involved. The thing is, I am on the verge of losing my marbles. Not just a few marbles, but all of them. I need to feel like I can breathe again, stretch my legs again, be free again. I feel like I have been in prison since April and at this point, the risk of contracting COVID feels less important than the risk that I may have a complete mental breakdown if I don’t get a dramatic change of scenery.

After returning from Vegas, I learn that a few of my friends in Los Angeles have tested positive for COVID. I can’t help but feel lucky that I have come back from my trip unscathed, and I vow to halt my travels until deemed safe by the government.

It is now December of 2020. As my final semester at Loyola Marymount University comes to a close, I realize that I have not made any graduation plans… not that there are any plans to be made. Knowing that after four years of hard work with trials and tribulations I will never walk across a college graduation stage makes me feel as though my undergraduate years have amounted to nothing. Even with our sadness and disappointment, Allison and I have pushed forward. Both of us received job offers in the past week, and I could not be more excited to have an opportunity to grow.

This year has been a rollercoaster. The ups and downs that 2020 has brought us have completely transformed the way our society functions. Even with the acceptance of my new job as a legal assistant, I feel as though my life could still change at any moment. I am thankful for friends like Allison who, no matter what happens in this crazy world, will always be by my side. This year has taught me that what matters most is the people I surround myself with. No tangible object or experience could have helped me keep my sanity through this year. My family and friends are the reason I have been able to push through the tribulations this year has brought, and I could not imagine what this year would have been like without them.

So now I ask… where do we go from here?

Sarah is a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Political Science. She grew up in Santa Barbara, California, loves to ski, and has a miniature Australian Shepherd named Nola. In the future, she hopes to attend law school.

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