Throughout my 25 years of existence, I have never had a year that has ever been as notorious as 2020. While we welcomed a new decade full of hope and fresh aspirations, it was not long until the year showed its true colors. It was a year of multiple losses in more ways than one, mine even more forgivable than others’. In general, it was the year of one of the worst pandemics that had ever ambushed earth – and ambushed it did. However, more specifically, it was a year of death to hundreds of thousands around the world, a year of vast unemployment and poverty, a year of mother nature unleashing her wrath, a year of institutional violence, and a year of breaking free from political blindfolds. It was one of the years where every single day felt like a battle. But along with the battles came the little triumphs.
2020 was not good to the majority of the world. While privileged people will insist on focusing on the positives, we cannot just turn a blind eye to the atrocity of this year. 2020 was definitely a fight to stay alive, both against the pandemic and the economic downturn. But to me, it was also a combat to remain sane. With my parents and partner working in healthcare, 2020, for me, was filled with worries about my loved ones who were fighting their own battles at their jobs. Every day, my heart hurt as they all went to work while I stayed at home listening to the news of people dropping like flies from this mysterious virus. Looking at my loved ones’ tired eyes, their faces red and sore from wearing layers of masks and medical protective equipment for at least eight hours a day, their mind and body exhausted from the hell they experience every day, was an interesting kind of pain. While being helpless about the fact that they risk their lives every single day was painful, their passion for what they do to save lives was a bittersweet slap of reality.
In the midst of all that, the air grew thick with smoke at some point in the year. Wildfires ravaged the Pacific North West, robbing us of what little liberties we still had. For a few weeks, my pets and I were stuck indoors as the wildfire reached cities a few miles from where I live. However, I knew that I was, and still am, very lucky. I was working in the safety of my own home, with a sufficient supply of nourishment, shelter, and basic necessities. I had a television, a Netflix subscription in UHD, and a steady stream of income. As many businesses closed around the world, millions of people lost their access to healthcare and food. Homelessness swelled in most countries, and citizens in poorer “developing” countries relied on donations to survive. Even though the situation is a little more manageable now here in the US as our healthcare workers receive their first dose of the vaccine, many far-flung and highly populated areas in the world still do not even have enough COVID-19 tests available to them.
2020 was definitely a year that we all relied on our leaders so that we can all survive. Nonetheless, as if the pandemic was not enough, these leaders themselves took advantage of the situation to further oppress us. Even though the pandemic was already killing humans left and right, police brutality all over the world was only too eager to assist the deadly disease. Even though we would have rather stayed in the sanctuary of their homes, institutional oppression in several countries such as the US, the Philippines, and India, empowered people to take their rage to the streets.
My battle for sanity was an uphill one. The stress from the pandemic, adjusting to the “new normal,” and worrying 24/7 about my parents and my loved ones catapulted me to having the worst asthma attack in my whole life. My asthma hitting its all-time high was the last thing I need while a lung-destroying disease knocks door-to-door. Finally, my mental health dipped to its darkest and lowest point when I lost my great grandma back in July. Losing someone is difficult for most, but grieving in the middle of a pandemic, away from family was almost unbearable. But I had to keep fighting.
To pass the endless hours indoors, I decided to spend all my time working. Besides slaving in my nine-to-five as a tech marketing manager, I dedicated the rest of my free time to finish my masters’ degree and start an educational nonprofit organization. In the middle of the year, I, along with some friends from High School, launched Project TASK, to educate students in my hometown in the Philippines about the pandemic’s effects on society. Through webinars, we reached out to the youth in my hometown and displaced any misconceptions about the pandemic. Realizing the disastrous consequences of self-isolation, we followed this up with another webinar series on mental health.
Ironically enough, I pressured myself into thinking that these efforts were not enough. I convinced myself I could accomplish so much more now that I am not partying and traveling. It was then that I launched this blog during the capstone term of my graduate program. I have always thought that there should not be any situation where I should not be flourishing. I got cocky. I challenged myself to thrive in the middle of the pandemic, while other people are just trying to survive. And so it began… the long, grueling hours of trying to finish my degree with a perfect 4.0 while trying to generate creative content. While I succeeded in all that and also getting a promotion in the process, it made a massive dent in my mental health. I burned myself out of what I enjoyed doing the most – content creation. Even worse, my physiological health did not stand a chance against my ruthless ambitions. In the last quarter of the year, I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and gastrointestinal ulcer. I finally reaped what I sowed – in more ways than one.
And so here we are in 2021. It is always a joy to welcome the new year, but it hits different this time. Last year, I had lists of different career moves I wanted to accomplish and countries I wanted to visit. While I still would like to pursue those if I can, my list of goals this year may have to look a little different:
- Love myself unconditionally
- Live freely and unapologetically
- Establish and maintaining boundaries
- Appreciate my loved ones
- Be more mindful of my carbon footprint
- Take a break once in a while
- Come out as gay to everyone without care of judgment
- Create content that I love and I would be proud of
At the end of 2019, I thought that I would be spending 2020 in a brand-new job and making six figures. I thought that I would be traveling the world. Life really has a funny way of working out sometimes. I welcomed 2020 full of hope and fresh aspirations. That did not change. Only now, those aspirations may look a little different. There will not be any other end-goal for 2021 than to just be happy.