Bearing News and Southpaw staff writers reflect on 2020, sharing their experiences with virtual learning and what they learned during quarantine as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Allison Kim, staff writer
With how much has happened in 2020, I’ve been compartmentalizing the year in my head by season. My summer was eventful, as I got to travel internationally amidst a pandemic and see my extended family in South Korea. There were plenty of challenges this fall and winter, with virtual learning prompting profuse amounts of complaining on my part while forcing me to practice patience and flexibility. The part of this year I feel I have the most to reflect on, however, would be last spring when the COVID-19 virus first hit Columbia, and we were sent home from school not knowing what to expect.
There’s a large period of time from when we were in lockdown that is missing from my mental calendar. It feels like it all went by in a blur, but while I was living through it, I remember the seven-hour gap left by school, dragging out each of my days. I did all the normal quarantine things like baking banana bread and going on bike rides. I also decided to culture myself and went through 48 films, 21 books and 18 albums that were referenced enough by other people that I thought I should look into them. After a month or so, I branched out and started roller skating, learned how to read tarot cards and even played Just Dance 4 for a solid two weeks, but every new activity got boring after a while.
I usually have no problem spending long periods of time alone, but going months without even getting to go to a grocery store was a completely different experience.”
I started to realize I was using various projects to distract myself from my emotions, and all the adventures slowly dwindled down to idle weeks of lying around. At first, I appreciated the newfound time quarantine provided and felt free from the expectation or pressure to do anything productive with it. As I started spending too much of this time trapped in my thoughts, the carefree attitude was replaced by a heaviness that confined me to my bed for days. I’m sure the loneliness that came with isolation was pretty much a universal experience. However, it was still significant to me because I don’t think I had ever recognized loneliness in myself before.
I usually have no problem spending long periods of time alone, but going months without even getting to go to a grocery store was a completely different experience. As someone who also has trouble admitting they rely on other people for support, quarantine helped me fully recognize and appreciate the large role friends and family play in my life.
Although this year was scary, isolating and frankly depressing at times, it has been one filled with opportunities to learn about myself and make strides in improving who I am. In that sense, I am grateful for 2020.
Anjali Noel Ramesh, news editor
I’ve always considered myself a good student. This year, however, I realized my definition of “good” was twisted to suit the standards of school. “Good” was progressing in my classes while decently understanding the content, putting equal effort into all of my assignments and occasionally passing a test with flying colors, which made me feel on top of the world for a day. It was being smart enough to grasp the bits and pieces of curriculum that would allow me to excel in the assessments weeks later, and nothing more than that.
I slowly understood that true moral fiber, like integrity, develops when no one is hovering over your shoulder, and only at times when you master the art of restraint.”
Since March, when we were forced to switch to virtual learning, I’ve learned that while I am a suitable student, the long-term game of life requires a degree of control I haven’t yet achieved. In a classroom, you are held accountable by peers and teachers, and the thought of facing consequences for falling behind in person the next day is enough incentive to finish project after project. I didn’t realize my lack of self-discipline until I could hide behind a screen everyday and burrow my problems under excuses that would sound pathetic in conversation. My motivation was built on fear of public failure, and it would wither away when its fuel was removed.
I slowly understood that true moral fiber, like integrity, develops when no one is hovering over your shoulder, and only at times when you master the art of restraint. Although I am far from this margin, I believe this year especially made me aware of this integral flaw, and recognition is my first step toward personal growth.
Vivian Spear, staff writer
This year I was given the opportunity to be more independent because of virtual school. Quarantine gave me the time to reflect on my performance in school and see what I could change. I specifically focused on my time management skills and work ethic. I did this by distancing myself from social media so it would not eat up the time I could be dedicating to my school work. Through this, I learned I work best in quiet environments away from my peers because it improves my concentration. It took a lot more time than I thought to adjust my schedule to virtual schooling. I had to work to convince myself school was not optional just because I was not physically going to RBHS by setting a routine for myself. I did this by waking up early and going for runs, eating a healthy breakfast and picking up new hobbies like learning to play guitar.
Nora Crutcher-McGowan, commentary editor
This year taught me the things I need to remind myself in order to survive this hectic era of political turmoil and rapid-fire disease spread. It also prepared me for getting used to the idea that things happen unexpectedly all the time (i.e. the rapid-fire disease spread); it’s just part of life. In March, we all hunkered down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I, like many others, naively expected this period of isolation to last a couple months tops, that this time was just a mere hiccup in the evolution of disease, that we would all kiss and hug and rejoice once more. Little did I know, this period would continue into the unforeseeable future. There was no set ending date I could look forward to. Some things just don’t have deadlines. The pandemic tested my patience, as well as my moral compass. Duty for the collective good emerged as a common reminder for myself, and I believe the circumstances of this year made me realize how truly important a sense of community is.
The murder of George Floyd in May and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests exacerbated the American reality of white ignorance regarding police brutality. Privileged people like myself didn’t necessarily have to, nor choose to notice, until now. Communities can do impactful things, oftentimes without the aid of an elected official, something I learned over the summer when I went to visit my sister in Minneapolis and saw how this city emerged as a community-oriented neighborhood of people, protests and clothing and food drives happening all over the city following Floyd’s death. It’s really quite remarkable how quickly we humans can adapt and act.
Another example of this is how teachers, students, schools and businesses can continue to be together in this age of certainty, albeit online or in new ways and platforms. It fascinates me how quickly we adapted to unexpected circumstances, and it allows me to be ready for the unexpectedness that lies ahead.
Emma Stefanutti, staff writer
In order to fully grasp the tumultuousness of this past year, I often find myself looking back to where I was last March for some perspective. Nine months ago, I was halfway through the second semester of junior year at my high school in California. My most pressing concerns at the time were my imminent SAT and AP exams, the dozens of late assignments starting to pile up and what I would be wearing to prom next month. In hindsight, all of these worries seem trivial to me, and I almost envy that time when my life was normal and stable enough for late work and prom to be the worst of my problems. Since March, I have lived in four different houses, moved across the country and had every familiar aspect of my life completely uprooted and transformed—all in the midst of a devastating global pandemic. If I had known earlier this year what my life would look like right now, it would seem like the absolute worst case scenario. I initially met every new drastic change I encountered this year with pessimism, assuming they were all for the worse. Despite this, I somehow found a way to make the best out of every seemingly inconvenient event.
In hindsight, all of these worries seem trivial to me, and I almost envy that time when my life was normal and stable enough for late work and prom to be the worst of my problems.”
Every time I had to pack my things and move to yet another house, I took the opportunity to make my room even nicer than my previous ones. When quarantine began and my school transitioned to virtual learning, I used my time at home to catch up on schoolwork, and I ended the school year with significantly better grades than first semester. And when I had to start fresh at a different school in an entirely different state this fall, I ventured out of my comfort zone, joined the journalism program and ended up meeting some of the best friends I have ever had.
If this year and all of its challenges taught me anything, it’s the importance of adaptability. The challenges I faced did not define my 2020, but my mindset and the way I navigated the changes did. As I learned this year, life will not always turn out the way I intend it to. Things can and will become unpredictable and messy, but even the most extreme changes will have their silver linings if I am open minded and willing enough to seek them out.
Shruti Gautam, feature editor
This year was full of change. But, for me, it was more about an opportunity for change. As someone who’s pretty loud around others, I’ve always been surprisingly shy and closed off about the things I love. Afraid of judgement or criticism, I try to keep those discussions exclusive to a few close friends. However, this year I decided what makes me happy shouldn’t be diminished to a “hobby.”
From making tons of playlists and sharing music to writing movie reviews, I’ve had time to put my thoughts into words and share them. Instead of straying away from topics on art and culture, I found myself reading and writing more with my seemingly newfound time. This year has had its ups and downs, but I’m proud of how I’ve grown during it. I worked hard to be comfortable with who I am.
What did you learn in 2020? Let us know in the comments below.