I was halfway through my sophomore year when everyone in school started buzzing about the virus that could make its way to the United States from China. Then, it seemed like something that would never actually happen. A virus was going to take over the world? Sounds a little too science-fiction for me. I thought a virus wouldn’t keep my friends from their graduation, from their last game on the baseball field or last competition on the track.. But I was wrong, we all were wrong.
Slowly but surely, people started dying from this horrendous thing that we knew nothing about and fear began creeping in. You must remember, most teenagers don’t really look at the big picture because the big picture to us is Friday night’s game and Saturday night’s party. We opened our eyes to the bigger picture when things that we had looked forward to our entire lives were being cancelled and postponed left and right to keep our community safe. School, sports, graduations, celebrations, and everything else our lives revolved around were all cancelled.
Living in a primarily conservative town, people thought that shutting businesses down and wearing masks into stores was a violation of their rights as Americans. As you can imagine, the virus, COVID-19, made it to our community and had no trouble spreading. At first, it was like the “cheese-touch” in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. No one wanted it and if you had it, you didn’t want anyone to know. My family had no idea what to do. My youngest sister, Caroline has a severely compromised immune system and in order to keep her safe, we all stayed home for weeks, with the exception of my father who continued to go to work to provide for our family. Eventually, it seemed like I was missing out on my life. I picked up new hobbies and advanced in old ones, but nothing made me feel better. Weeks felt like months and our house seemed like it was shrinking by the minute.
My mother, a dental hygienist, started going back to work after a few weeks in quarantine. We walked on eggshells after that, hoping and praying that her patients would be honest about their COVID-19 exposure so she wouldn’t bring anything home to Caroline or the rest of our family. Our lives changed from then on. It was now about keeping each other safe and looking at the big picture, even when it was the last thing we wanted to see. My mom and dad would come home from work and change clothes in the garage before bringing their contaminated clothing inside and putting it directly into the washer on high heat. My younger sister, Natalie and I would drive to get groceries and come home and wipe them all down with disinfectant wipes before putting them away. At that point it felt like we were adding five extra steps to each part of our daily routine, but we would do it a million more times if it meant we were keeping each other safe.
Personally, I struggle with depression and anxiety and I have for as long as I can remember, but there was something different about 2019. I felt like I could breathe. I felt comfortable with the people I chose to surround myself with and I was excelling in all aspects of my life. Until March 2020, I felt free; free from myself, free from judgement, and free from my overwhelming emotions. Quarantine was a mental struggle to say the least. Being alone fuels the fire of depression and having to socialize after being alone for so long increases the severity of anxiety. I decided that I was no longer going to sit around and feel sorry for myself, I was going to get up and start advocating for others that are in the same position as myself. I began using my art to advocate for mental illness with drawings, paintings, t-shirts, and articles. It was an incredibly liberating experience and that I would most definitely do it again.
2020 was a rollercoaster to say the least but everyone has their own story to tell about it. It was a year full of loss, growth, understanding, and coming together in ways we never thought would be possible. No matter what you accomplished in 2020, pat yourself on the back for making it through in one piece. Although, this pandemic is not over. It is important that we all continue to be there for each other, virtually or 6 feet apart.