2020 was a year full of challenges, as I am sure you are well aware. The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it a vast array of problems and challenges emotionally, physically, and personally. I remember being on campus at the start of 2020, completely unaware of what was coming. I had heard brief mentions of Covid; the fact that it existed and was at the time in China. I had no idea the whirlwind that was waiting around the corner.
On the 16th of March, Stellenbosch University sent out an email to let us all know that the university would be closing due to the virus spreading in South Africa. I walked home from my lectures, packed up my car, and drove home, naively believing I would be back in no time. Cut forward to now, the 17th of December, I have been back to Stellenbosch on 3 occasions; to fetch winter clothes that I had left behind in my haste, to fetch more personal items that I now needed, and finally, for my check out inspection for the year-end.
The 5-week initial lockdown challenged me in new ways. I was suddenly spending more time at my dad’s house than I ever had before. Varsity moved online, bringing its own unique challenges like the platform overloading and lecturers who could not operate Microsoft Teams. My subpar work ethic began to rear its head and suddenly I was having to force myself into a strict schedule to ensure I was completing my work when needed.
I am, however, well aware that I am in the uniquely fortunate position that I am in. While classmates struggled with load shedding and no access to wifi, I had access to a generator and uncapped internet. The university tried its best to help with online learning by providing data to all students, free of charge. But this was not quite enough. Students have had to face so many challenges this year. Many of them had to move home and study in households that were crowded and noisy. They had to work during the day to help provide for their families and then return home to study well into the night to keep up with their work. This year has been exhausting, challenging, and draining for many.
It’s okay to not be okay
Now, why am saying all of this? I have read far too many social media posts suggesting that life will return to normal on January 1st. People are trying to be positive by saying that 2020 was hard but [blank] was good and for that, we should be grateful and happy. But this year sucked. For many, it was probably the worst year to date that they have ever been subjected to. Let them complain. Let them air their frustrations and don’t try to offer platitudes in a bid to make them feel better. I think we try so hard to see the good in all things that we often forget that it’s okay to not be okay.
That’s not to say you can’t look forward to the new year, I know I am. I am beyond excited for 2021: I will be graduating, I will be back in Stellenbosch with my closest friends and I will hopefully, be able to get back into a routine that I am familiar and happy with. But life will not return to normal. Masks will still need to be worn, Wednesday nights out will be limited to a few close friends and a home-cooked meal. We cannot ignore the new aspects of our reality but we can choose to embrace them and take them as they come.
I hope each and every one of you has a better 2021 than 2020, and that the next year brings some good that you may not expect.
All my love, Jos xx