Chaos first erupted into my life when my school officially announced it was going virtual. My initial thoughts were full of celebration. After all, who wouldn’t want to be free of calculus, a math topic that contains more letters than numbers? Yet it was only a few days later that I began to yearn the rigid school schedule that would fill my day with both late–night study sessions and laughter with friends. While I was able to talk with my classmates through my phone, the connection that came with a face-to-face discussion was missing. But that was only the beginning.
A phone call came from my grandparents who live in China. My dad’s face contorted in disbelief when he discovered that there was a COVID-19 case in the village that his parents lived in. I remember him begging his father, “Promise me you won’t go out to sell food. It’s not safe!” Because my grandparents were farmers, they relied on selling their crops to earn money. Tears rushed down my father’s face as he pleaded with his parents to remain at home. “I’ll send money to you, so please don’t risk your life!” By the time my dad finished his phone call, I could taste blood in my mouth. I had unconsciously started chewing on my lip. Whether it was from the suspense of the call or the fear that began to gnaw at my heart, my best guess was that it was a little bit of both. I remained full of anxiety with each phone call my dad received, fearing it would be a message that my grandparents had become victims of COVID-19. Every ring would make me freeze in my spot, listening to the words that would be uttered and praying it wouldn’t contain “bad news” and “death.”
“Everything is okay.” My parents loved telling me those words with a strained smile. But I knew what was hidden beneath those words. It wasn’t just my grandparents who were at risk. Every night I would hear my father waking up to open his computer. He would click softly with his mouse, trying not to disturb anyone as he tried to work on his assignments from work. Many of his co-workers had been laid off by his company, leaving my father with twice the work and stress. There would be nights that I would silently close my eyes and surround myself within the shadows of the night, listening to the faint humming of the computer. I wanted to be able to do something, to magically shove away all the problems that my parents were facing even if it was for a day. Yet I was powerless to do anything except continue on with my day.
The past year has taken me on a rollercoaster of emotions. There would be times I would break down in the middle of the night crying about how someone in my family could die just from visiting the grocery store. Anxiety and isolation from my peers left me with no way to release my pent-up fears. But I know I’m not the only one who has suffered. Across our nation, the death of George Floyd prompted millions of protestors in order to preserve our nation’s core value of equality. COVID-19 has separated millions of people from their loved ones, leaving them in constant fear that today might be the last time they see their loved ones. However, with the start of a new year, vaccines have already begun to be distributed and our nation has started to overcome the racism that has lasted for generations. Even in the dark times caused by COVID-19, there is always an end and we are close. We are near the end of the journey and the light in the tunnel is finally emerging with the distribution of vaccines worldwide. While no one will be able to emerge out of this journey completely unscathed, we must continue trudging forward together, bringing along the lessons we obtained from the pandemic. Because at the end of the day, we’re all Americans, united in our pursuit for our ideals: a value that has lasted for years and will continue to for decades.