May 27, 2022
Niagara Falls

Looking back at my 2020 experience

“2020 was supposed to be my year,” said everyone who had to experience the beautiful, mesmerizing, enchanting, chaos hole that was 2020. 

I started 2020 by crying just an hour into it. I had enjoyed a New Year’s Eve with one of my closest friends, we’ll call him Finn, who I’ve known for at least eight years, and he told me a story about my oldest brother that I had never heard. It’s important to note that my oldest brother’s birthday is on New Year’s Day, and that he had died when I was 13 – which typically puts a damper on all New Year’s celebrations. But I’m glad I cried an hour into 2020, it really set the scene for the rest of the year.

The second day of the spring 2020 semester, I came down with an incredibly intense viral illness that nobody could put their finger on, but it wasn’t the flu. I couldn’t go to class for the next two days, my fever peaked at 104.2 F and it caused some sleep paralysis. 

In the beginning of the pandemic, when most countries had decided it wasn’t a problem, I was checking on Wuhan like it was my job. If I didn’t check in every hour on the weird sickness that was rippling through cities and causing slight mayhem, I was going to lose my mind. 

Now, hear me out, I know that that seems dramatic, but I could find text messages I sent to my mom about it, and to my roommate, and to my ex. I was on top of what was happening and freaking out before anyone else on campus was. My older brothers had instilled a fear of mystery illnesses into me at a young age. Before the age of 10, I would be traumatized watching them not only play the Resident Evil games, but also the movie adaptations.  

When March swung around and we got sent home I was mildly relieved. My roommate and I had gone apocalypse shopping a week before. We were prepared to be on campus for a while, but ultimately I’m grateful we went home when we did. 

My grandma and I would go to the store at what she called “the old people hour” and I was allowed in because I have a connective tissue disease, chronic anemia, and asthma (why wasn’t I afraid of getting COVID? I have no idea) and when we’d get home I’d disinfect all the groceries and help my little brothers get ready for online school, and then I’d have to go to online school myself. 

It was nice to see that professors were having a strange time adjusting to this change as well. We all got a glimpse of just how human everyone was this year, and it was strangely comforting to see other people struggling just as much as I was. 

I was working too many jobs in the midst of the pandemic. I worked in retail, in a warehouse, and as a server. While I am so incredibly grateful that I could have a job, dealing with anti-maskers while being technically immunocompromised was very annoying. I got cussed out by customers for wearing a mask, despite all of my coworkers and managers wearing masks, but that was before the statewide rule was set in place. One woman walked into the restaurant where I worked without a mask and I asked her if she had one, and then she locked her keys and her phone in her car while she was getting her mask. I still feel bad about that, but hindsight is only 20/20.

At the same restaurant job I accidentally got one of my coworkers fired because he kept trying to get me to have a drink from the bar, despite knowing that I was only 20. I got harassed and insulted, and one time I went home crying because a customer sexually harassed me and my coworker because of something that I was wearing. 

2020 punched me in the throat when I got broken up with over text and I couldn’t get any real closure for the next month and a half until I forced closure on myself when I had decided that closure was overrated. A few days after getting broken up with, my friends forced me to go to the nearest emergency room because I kept blacking out and having heart problems, all just for the doctors to tell me that I’m just stressed out and should try to stop doing stressful things. Very helpful.

My grandma had a bunch of health problems and my little brother had a COVID scare and my heart was messing up and we’re in the middle of a pandemic and perhaps the beginning of a civil war but that’s just the wave we had to ride in 2020.

When the protests began in the end of spring, and I couldn’t go, I felt a little defeated. No matter how much I donated to people or to causes, or how many petitions I signed, I felt that my activism was a little performative because I couldn’t protest – and I have to keep reminding myself that I have asthma, we’re in a pandemic, and Columbus PD loves tear gas and pepper spray. Black lives matter, point blank period.

One of my best friends and I went to Niagara Falls in July and when we left we drove by the place where that older man was assaulted by police in Buffalo, New York and we both felt like it was surreal. It’s strange seeing something happen in a video and then seeing the place where it happened. It felt like it was haunted by the memory of what happened and all the injustices that have continued to happen at the hands of police.

My friend, Tyler, made us stop and get buffalo wings from Buffalo, NY because he said that they would taste the absolute best, and as a vegetarian I have never been more disappointed in vegan food than I was that day when he got the most beautiful wings and I got lumps of tofu that were like biting into really fudgy brownies covered in hot sauce. The hot sauce was good though, I will give Buffalo that.

Tyler was the friend who picked me up from the ER the night I had to go for my stressed out heart, and I think I could speak for both of us when I say that 2020 was the year of breakups and spending time with your close friends. Another one of my friends, we’ll call her Wendy, went through a break up in the same exact week that I did and she drove up from Georgia to take me to a Target (or, maybe three Targets) and to spend time with her family, and with Finn (who had not gone through a break up and was the only mentally and emotionally stable one out of the three of us). Wendy and I leaned on each other’s shoulders for a lot of this year – though mostly over text and Facetime due to the pandemic that still hadn’t ended by the conclusion of 2020. 

My roommate, Heather Fryman – the insanely smart and talented biology and Spanish double major, my best friend, and the only person to ever hear me sing in the shower is probably the most important friend anyone could ever have in their lives. I’d tell you to get yourselves a Heather but I have claimed her, you will have to find your own. Heather held me together with the insane amounts of band-aids we keep in our apartment, and with her words.

We watched Chopped when we ate dinner until we ran out of episodes to watch (and I recently made her start watching New Girl with me) and I think that that routine probably helped me pull myself back together after my casually super low point post ER visit and crying about sexual harassment in the workplace. We panicked about the election together, and every single time that Biden won we celebrated again. Heather and I got tattoos together and then got into a mysterious Lyft together that might’ve drugged us a little bit but we survived, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. 

2020 sucked like using a paper straw to drink a smoothie – you keep trying to make it work but it just keeps disintegrating and literally falling apart and you can’t do anything but get another paper straw (wasteful! just buy glass or metal straws) but it wasn’t all that bad. Taylor Swift released two amazing albums. I had so many hair colors. I got a bunch of cool new tattoos. I literally got to see Niagara Falls and got to see a glimpse of what freedom could look like (the entrance to Canada). I got to act in my friend Anya Vanasdale’s short films.

I met and got close with my friend Brooke Taylor in a time where we both desperately needed a friend. While I was in COVID-19 isolation, the amazing Connor Van Dyke got my mail for me and helped me cope with the fact that I was stuck in a single room for three days and couldn’t leave and now he’s teaching me how to play guitar. I got my septum pierced with my friend Patrick and we got Insomnia Cookies and got to bond over the weird people we went to high school with. Annie Davis spent her 21st birthday on Zoom with me and her other friends playing Jackbox games and laughing our heads off. The Chimes and WXCU radio started a podcast that Dan Messersmith and I are hosting, and I got to truly enjoy being a part of the Chimes staff while we spent hours and hours every week doing layouts.

Last year really reminded me how much humans need each other to survive. Quarantine made me self-sufficient but living with a roommate and seeing my friends and texting my friends and just being around my coworkers is what got me through the days. I’ve loved myself for awhile but 2020 made me appreciate who I really am, and who I’ve always been before people sculpted me into what they wanted me to be. If there’s anything I learned it’s that I am allowed to be completely, unabashedly myself. The only person you always have there for you is yourself and that’s totally okay. 

2020 was like that toxic friend that we’ve all had, the one that gaslights you a little bit and then ghosts you – but you’re weirdly kind of glad that they ghosted you because their friendship was honestly draining. Goodbye 2020, stay out of my house, stay away from me, and never come back.

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