If I could write a letter to myself about a year ago — pre-pandemic, pre-election, pre-world gone mad — this is what it would say.
Dear past self,
Wow. What an impactful and life changing year 2020 will be. You will not believe what you're about to experience and how you are going to handle it. There will be some ups, and a lot — I mean, a lot — of downs. You will wrestle myriad emotions and learn so much about yourself, mostly in the comfort of your own home.
Remember that virus that was found in China, that your friend mentioned back in, what, the beginning of December? You were worrying about it, but you decided to shake it off like it was nothing. Well, guess what? It reaches New Mexico in March and becomes a pandemic.
The coronavirus, which can cause an illness called COVID-19, will result in a total lockdown — restaurants, gyms, shopping malls and other nonessential businesses will close — and you'll spend most of the year worrying for your family’s life. Wearing a mask will be the new norm, you'll go to school online and you won't be able to socialize much with friends. You need to prepare.
Honestly, the year doesn’t start off so bad. Like, at all. Track season makes for a good beginning to 2020. You will build connections and have a lot of fun hanging out with new people. You also will be proud to see the ways running training paid off — even though there will only be one track meet.
Right before spring break, however, things will take a turn. Schools around New Mexico will extend spring break for three weeks, but with travel restrictions and so much fear and uncertainty, you won't want to go anywhere or do much of anything. If you decide to go anywhere, you'll have to wear a mask and keep 6 feet between you and other people. Mostly, spring break will consist of a lot of baking, bike rides and lounging on the couch.
Meanwhile, people will test for COVID-19 every day; you'll get regular news updates of how many people test positive and how many people have died. Streets will become empty, spring sports will be postponed and life as you know it will be turned upside down.
After a long break from school, you'll learn that the rest of your academic school year will take place online. No in-person classes, sports or other extracurricular activities. It will drag on. And on. And on.
Once the school year ends, there won't be much to do. You will paint with watercolor once in a while and start some new sewing projects. You'll get to see some friends, in a safe way, and you'll appreciate that time spent together more than ever.
You will witness the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer in May, spread all over the internet. It will make you more aware of the police brutality and racism that persists across America, and it will open your eyes to the issues that truly matter in this world.
Of all the heartache and difficult lessons to come, 2020 will have its fair share of silver linings. It will be a year of self-discovery; you will start to truly love yourself and feel confident in your own body. You will experiment with fashion and makeup — ways to outwardly express yourself — and push yourself to step outside your comfort zone. You will start to pay more attention to what you like and don't like, what interests you, and what drains your energy. You'll chase after the things you want from life, rather than what others want.
It won't be easy. You'll figure out that you overthink a lot, and that you care too much about what others think of you. In isolation, you'll become paranoid about people judging you. You'll play scenarios in your head that your friends don’t like you or that acquaintances think you’re weird. Even as I write to you now, you’re still working on drowning out the self-doubt.
Once school starts back up in the fall — still online — it will take a large toll on your emotions. You'll feel unmotivated and tired. So tired. This might be your lowest point. The never-ending days of sitting at your desk and listening to your teacher chatter about how to use scientific notation will feel like too much. Homework will only add to the stress.
It will be hard. You'll cry when you're feeling frustrated or anxious. You'll break down when you're feeling insecure or ashamed. There will be days when you want to curl up in a ball and simply disappear.
But, you'll try your best. And you will pull through. I promise.
On the darkest days, remember that life is still worth living and that the future is still one of hope.
I'm writing this, so you're still here in the world, alive and healthy. Your family is OK. Your friends are OK. Everything is still okaOKy, even with school being dreadful and you not getting to have the experiences you want to have right now. Despite all of the hardships, you will survive 2020.