In too many ways, 2020 has been one for the history books. A global pandemic that’s caused schools and businesses to shut down, numerous instances of racist police brutality and an indescribably polarized presidential election — it’s all been a little surreal.

But, amid the heartache and isolation, 2020 has also been marked by a relentless hope. In the most difficult times, there are lessons to be learned and there is joy to be found.

Moving nearer to 2021, Generation Next writers reflect on the hardships as well as on those silver linings. More than ever, youth are determined to increase their awareness of social justice issues, show appreciation for those they love, be their true, authentic selves and strive to make the world a better place.

Hopeful this year ‘goes a long way toward helping us eliminate racism and bias’

By Niveditha Bala

For me, this year has been one of the biggest and the most surreal in my life. Not only did many of us seniors have to navigate the murky waters of college applications, SATs and ACTs with considerably less guidance, but we had to do so with the added fear and uncertainty of the pandemic. Now, as we look to 2021, I’m not sure any of the typical “lasts” that seniors experience — prom and graduation, for example — will even happen.

Really, there are no words to entirely encapsulate the senior year pandemic experience.

Still, despite it all, 2020 has brought many silver linings and positives. Firstly, this year has raised significant awareness of racial justice issues and has given new wings to the Black Lives Matter movement; now, more people than ever are fighting for positive change and taking action against white supremacy and racism. Similarly, as the implications of climate change physically manifest more than ever, the need for sustainability efforts and green energy has been increasingly highlighted.

I am hopeful that the awareness and growth we have experienced this year goes a long way toward helping us eliminate racism and bias, both explicit and implicit.

This pandemic has also made me feel more grateful. I realize that I took my health, and the many other privileges in my life, for granted. Even just having reliable internet access that provides the ability to video chat with friends or watch movies with family has made my pandemic experience vastly different than those of others.

I feel frustrated that I can’t do more to help those struggling right now and ease the burdens that others have to carry, but I hope that as the vaccine rolls out, and as positive change ensues in other areas, these strains will be lightened.

Niveditha Bala is a senior at Mandela International Magnet School. Contact her at niveditha.bala@mandelainternationalschool.us

‘2020 has turned me into a bit of a pessimist’

By Ben Timm

This year made me rethink how I understand the world, as I was given a rude awakening to the actual nature of our society. We went from a potential war in January, to an impeachment vote and then a pandemic — all in just the first three months. This year has shown us that all it takes for any unity of society to collapse is one blip of contention. For example, the idea that perhaps it would be wise to wear a mask and help protect other people has turned into a stubborn politicized argument. There is so much bewildering, hate-fueled division.

I suppose 2020 has turned me into a bit of a pessimist. I have, at the very least, lowered my standards for Americans. It is clear we are not as evolved as a society as I initially thought.

Elsewhere, I have seen some of what humanity is capable of. Italy and Australia managed to get on top of the pandemic, with the latter managing to reopen the country. Scientists and doctors have done an incredible job despite the seemingly endless challenges that face them. Most important, the shutdown has shown everyone that it’s possible for the planet to recover from even the worst events. So, there is hope even if things look bleak right now.

Ben Timm is a senior at Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School. Contact him at bentigertimm@gmail.com.

‘My last year living in Santa Fe was snagged right out from under me’

By Ivy St. Clair

The year that lasted a lifetime, 2020 has thrown me for a loop, to say the least. What began as a phenomenal ski season and the exciting start to a new decade quickly devolved into chaos.

Missing the last quarter of my junior year was bittersweet. I longed for my pre-pandemic lifestyle, but I was thankful that what was supposed to be my hardest year of high school ended in such a laid-back way. Missing the first half of my senior year, however, was just bitter.

My last year living in Santa Fe was snagged right out from under me. All the expectations for my senior year of high school have been obliterated, and suddenly my only hope for 2021 is that I’ll be able to attend my first year of college in person. At this point, though, who’s to even say if that’ll happen.

Ivy St. Clair is a senior at Santa Fe High School. Contact her at ivy.ian.st.clair@gmail.com.

‘I know it’s made me stronger’

By Ian Hernandez Rojas

This year was by far the craziest of my life. So many horrible things happened this year. Times were so tough this year for everyone, and no one really knew what to do. The year was so unpredictable. Everything seemed to be off in the world, and nothing felt normal at all.

This year has taught me how tough life can be. It’s made me open my eyes to so many things I was ignoring about the world. Because of this increased awareness and the emotions that came with them, I feel like such a different person than who I was a year ago. I’ve experienced so much heartache and loss this year, but I know it’s made me stronger. I feel good about where I’m at right now in life, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings. I’ve learned lessons in 2020 that I will never forget.

Ian Jose Hernandez Rojas is a sophomore in The MASTERS Program. Contact him at ianhernandezrocks@gmail.com.

‘I actually like spending time with myself’

By Aviva Nathan

Before this year, I felt like I could never finish things without making compromises. My to-do lists never entirely got checked off before I started new ones. I would always think to myself, “If only I had more time.” In 2020, I gained much more free time than anticipated. Of course, this extra time came with many restrictions. Having to see people with masks while staying 6 feet apart inspired me to spend more time alone, mostly in nature and practicing introspection.

Before the pandemic, I wouldn’t have considered myself an introvert because I was always in the presence of others. Now, I realize I actually like spending time with myself. I also had the chance to rethink my priorities and now focus on using my energy in ways that match my values.

I’m grateful for the time that this year has provided me, although I wish it didn’t have to come at such high costs.

Aviva Nathan is a sophomore at Santa Fe Preparatory School. Contact her at avivafnathan@gmail.com.

‘I was sad that the pandemic took away from my limited time as a teenager’

By Sofia Barker

I feel this year taught me to live in the moment, and to let myself be a teenager. I don’t have adult responsibilities yet, and I don’t need to grow up so fast.

Almost spending a year at home, away from the things I love, really affected my mental health. It made me feel small, like I had no power over my life. I was sad that the pandemic took away from my limited time as a teenager.

But, I also learned to have patience, and to make the most of what I have in this world. I am thankful for my family, friends and the opportunities I have right now. I am thankful for my health. And I am thankful that I haven’t lost anyone due to this pandemic.

I’ve struggled emotionally during this pandemic, but it is a matter of time until we take a positive turn. I continue to have hope for a brighter year with more positive energy in 2021.

Sofia Barker is a sophomore at the Academy for Technology and the Classics. Contact her at 10073@atcschool.org.

‘I took this opportunity to reflect inward’

By Luke Beingessner-Chavez

This year was a strange one, to say the least. Not one person was left unaffected by the movie-like events that occurred seemingly every day. Yet, through these crazy times, I found a necessary silver lining to help me survive: The copious amount of time this year offered allowed me to fully discover myself.

I took this opportunity to reflect inward and find passions that help me steady myself amid uncertainty and confusion. I know this will help me forge a solid path in my future as well. If there is one thing 2020 has taught me, it’s that a solid foundation can help in numerous aspects of life.

Luke Beingessner-Chavez is a sophomore at Santa Fe High school. Contact him at Lukee80122@gmail.com.

‘You convince yourself that this is forever’

By Emma Meyers

It felt like I was peeling away layer after layer after layer of skin.

In the moments that you are emotionally naked, you convince yourself that this is forever.

On the good days, everyone tells you that you aren’t sick anymore. Not in danger anymore.

But the coolness of the “anymore” doesn’t ease the self-feeding volcanic trauma in your brain. You don’t get to watch yourself recover in real time, but you watch everyone around you realize you’re OK in spurts. You climb the stairs three at a time.

Then, the skin grew back thicker. And it grew back stronger.

Emma Meyers is a sophomore at Santa Fe Prep. Contact her at emmawritingacc@gmail.com.

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