Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
Thank you 2020. Of my comparatively short life, you were certainly the worst.
“A lost year” is what it is now being referred to. A year we long to forget yet will surely remain engrained in all of our memories. The virus highlighted almost everything wrong in this world, and perhaps also everything that was right. Our fast-paced 21st century lives slowed to a halt with over half the world’s population asked to stay at home. Then suddenly and rather ferociously the world was drawn into the glare with George Floyd’s murder, Black Lives Matter protests sparked across the globe, horrifying pictures of armies attacking protestors, and all of this amongst a global health crisis.
But what will we remember from this crisis? I won’t forget the apocalyptic pictures of mass graves in New York, but nor will I forget neighbours hitting colanders for the NHS. Or what about when the footballer, Marcus Rashford, had to demand children didn’t go hungry, but the Queen promised “we will meet again”. News of goats taking over a town in Wales entertained the nation, all the while infection rates kept increasing. Captain Tom reminded us all to do our part, whilst TikTok distracted us. Most people got poorer, whilst the mega-rich got richer, Bezos becoming the richest man ever to exist (all $200bn of him). I certainly won’t forget the endless blessing of sun through April and May or tense family discussions, mostly over feminism in my household. What about the day the pubs reopened and a return to normalcy seemed so nearby? Perhaps it was the totally deflated feeling that accompanied the news of the second wave? Yet thankfully Trump slowing losing the November election warmed my soul.
Amongst these world-shaking events, the reality for many of us, was eventually returning to our lives as students. Now a far more dystopian university experience: lecturers speaking to you through a screen into your messy bedroom, operating your academic life from your bed and friends scared to see each other. This semester mostly one big slog of countless missed meetings, days without leaving the flat and pained eyes staring at screens well into the night. It wasn’t the year I expected, and I’m sure as hell it wasn’t anyone else’s. The last glimmer of light physically disappearing with winter’s descendance, and metaphorically, as we were ripped from us the pubs and then from each other. Although, this isn’t a pity party for students – I am painfully aware of how lucky we are to be young during a pandemic that targets the old, with more than 9/10 deaths above the age of 65.
This fact was made very real to me when I befriended an elderly woman, Catherine, in the summer. She had moved in March, lost her husband in April and didn’t leave her house until July. Broken hearted, torn from the outside world, and finding herself in a totally new place alone – I couldn’t have thought of a sadder requiem to this year. Yet, amongst these profound hardships, she only spoke of the kindness of strangers, of her new-found community and of making do in these times.
Surely, that’s the thing we take from this year, of making do. We’ve now learnt to make plans with no sureness they will ever happen. To live with this uncertainty and to embrace this ‘new normal’ – however many facemasks we lose, relationships that are maintained through screens and lockdowns that are enforced.
As 2020 draws to a close, the vaccine rolls out and we are all a little wiser and more thankful – I say goodbye to this year with joy, hope and a little sadness. A small part of me longing for that fleeting feeling amongst the crisis that big change was in the air, the world finally woken up to what was important. I only wonder, where that same feeling is now?