During a normal year, the holiday season and New Year’s Eve is an opportunity to consider how far we’ve come in the past 365 days, and how far we hope to go in future. We consider the highs and lows, the brightest moments and darkest ones. Given the fact that the farthest many of us have gone in the past ten months is from one end of our house to the other and that our brightest moment was receiving a negative test result after a COVID scare, this year’s period of reflection will likely feel a little different.
Even sitting down to write this short piece felt like a momentous task — after all, how can you possibly reflect on everything that happened in 2020? I decided that the only way I could do it was the same way I’ve been doing everything else since March: one small step at a time. In a year that has felt so big, I think those small moments are the ones that are most important to reflect on.
I remember my first batch of quarantine meringue cookies. I remember FaceTiming my sister when she adopted her new kitten and giving my dog belly rubs on her sixth birthday. I remember making social-distanced friendship bracelets to celebrate a 14-year Friendshipiversary. I remember my first Daily Nexus meeting, my first Netflix watch party with a new friend from college and my first Among Us game with a student volunteer group I joined at UCSB.
Small moments in a very, very big year. It doesn’t feel right to end 2020 by going out with a grand finale or by trying to put a positive spin on what we have all been through, but I think it’s important that we don’t forget those bright moments. As we step into 2021, my only hope is to continue taking small steps in the right direction.
By Mikayla Buhbe
It’s been a weird, stressful year filled with challenges and more than a little chaos. We’re all gonna carry pieces of this year with us forever. But honestly? More than anything, I’m just so damn tired of it all.
I’ve had quite enough of a COVID response that would make serial killers blush. I’d love to forget what “social distancing” is. I could definitely do without the president attempting a coup every couple of days. I know others have discovered new meaning and perspective in their lives and whatnot during this time. But me? I’d like everything to go back to the way it was, thank you very much.
I learned a lot, grew a lot and experienced a lot this year. Whatever. Let’s just tie up all these plotlines and move on with our lives — how’s that sound for a New Year’s resolution?
Here’s to a 2021 of utter banality. Here’s to a 2021 where the political scandal of the week is a staffer calling Republicans “a bunch of fuckers” and not the president extorting a foreign government. Here’s to a 2021 where we get to worry about stuff like climate change and economic inequality instead of the dumpster fire of the day. And oh god, here’s to a 2021 of mild colds instead of … this.
By Faiz Surani
What a word.
But what is “waiting,” truly? A mere concept, a moment, a collection of moments?
All I know is that for the past 10 months, we’ve all been waiting for something.
With a society so intent on definition, rules and structure, we demand the same from results. We demand the same from ourselves and the world around us. And when such deadlines or expectations are not met, when that “something” we’re waiting for goes undefined or unfulfilled, it’s easy to drown in the swirling current of ephemeral uncertainty. Seemingly devoid of the structure and limits imposed by traditional clocks and calendars, hours blend into days, days into weeks, weeks into … you get it.
Staring out my window, hoping for some magic entity to appear on the street and declare the eradication of the virus got kind of old after a week and really old after months on end. All this waiting got me thinking and doing — dangerous endeavors, I know.
I began collecting hobbies like crows collect shiny trash: constantly. From drawing to baking to designing t-shirts for companies I would never own to learning the first five notes of “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme” from “La La Land” on guitar, the waiting game became a personal challenge to myself to rid myself of expectations of results. Experimentation came with landmark successes and milestones, but it came with many failures as well. And that was fine.
I wasn’t waiting for anything, I was doing. But this time, on my terms.
It does not hasten a result to tap your toe for every second lost or to bemoan the fleeting days of summer. Waiting is not the loss of time, but the gain of a small pocket in the fabric of time.
It’s a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the unknowing and uncertainty of exploration.
By Toni Schindler-Ruberg
Staring into a blue screen, my eyes burn and blur. My entire field of vision fills with nothing but tiny boxes. Email, Zoom, solitaire … just another day in the life of a college student in the year of our lord two thousand and twenty. I scroll through my inbox, impulsively deleting messages without reading them, not even bothering to fully comprehend their subject lines. Ads for Albertsons, Etsy and Starbucks zoom past my glazed eyes, the “unsubscribe” button out of reach for an efficient machine such as myself.
I feel myself falling into a not entirely comforting rhythm, slowly losing myself to the scrawl of the screen. Click. Click. Click. Delete. Delete. Delete. Hundreds, no, thousands of messages flood my inbox by the minute.The digital clock in the top right corner of the monitor ticks away the minutes, hours, days, months, quarters. I no longer recognize my own name at the top of these pointless messages. The inbox is all there was, all there has been, all there ever will be. But I fight back. I cannot, will not give in. They cannot. Make me. Reply.
Centuries later, I peel my eyes away from the screen. I blink blindly in the falling darkness, my pupils dilating wildly. Relief so intense floods my system that my eyes instantly brim with tears. I stare at the four solid walls of my tiny bedroom, shaken by their reality, their solidity. Crumpled tissues and discarded clothes litter the floor, not as easily deleted as the digital refuse in my spam folder. I unglue my tongue from the roof of my mouth, swallowing once, twice, hard. Boy bands and landmarks stare back at me from the walls, welcoming me back to the land of the living. Or the land of the breathing, at least. With a sigh, I get up to retrieve my laptop charger from the other room.
By Katie Caracciolo
Pain and suffering were the main theme of the year 2020. We are constrained in our homes or dorms, learning without the presence of our peers and teachers, living with negative emotions like loneliness, fear, anger and hopelessness, and some now have an empty chair at the dinner table.
As a freshman and a first-year writer at the Nexus who is staying at home this year, I really wish that I could have known my fellow staffers and editors better, meeting them in person instead of a weekly Zoom meeting. While staying at home, I got an opportunity to explore my interest and read books that I never had the time to read: history, politics, economics, philosophy and more.
I’ve taken this year to think hard on what I want to learn and what goals I wanted to achieve during my time in college. Let us think of this year as a refining and aging to the wine of life. Let us use this time in our hands to be with our loved ones and explore and develop new hobbies and knowledge, and make ourselves better than our former self. Let us use this time to figure out what we are passionate about and learn more about it.
With the new COVID-19 vaccine rolling out, it is possible that we could return to physical instruction in the next year and the extracurricular activities at UCSB could normalize. We will then use the knowledge and passion that we developed during this stressful time to work, live and play together better next year.
By Nathan Li
The greatest thing to have come from the chaos that characterized this past year was finding out how right my sister was about the wonders of “The Bachelorette.” While I wasn’t trying to be snooty at her for watching the show before, there was zero appeal to me whenever she tried getting me to watch. That was until 2020, when everything was falling to bits and I got to see that reality reflected in what must have been one of the most chaotic seasons of reality television to shoot.
I started watching after seeing that the first bachelorette dipped after already having chosen her man when the show was in an awkward state of limbo due to COVID-19. Someone actually beating the producers and giving a big finger in a reality tv show is something that I simply find impossible to not be intriguing. And the fact that the bachelors threatened to UNIONIZE?! What a beautiful mess 2020 gave us.
All of the dates and activities were incredibly pathetic because they couldn’t go anywhere so they had to just deal with being on the resort the entire time, which was hilarious. My only complaint was that ABC didn’t lean on it and instead kept trying to run away from the obvious mess that was going on. Sometimes that made things even funnier, but the fact that they didn’t invite Clare Crawley — the original Bachelorette of the season who the bitter execs hate for beating the system and winning the only real way one can in reality TV — back for the reunion is just a disgrace to good television. If things continue to be an absolute shitshow, here’s hoping they take better advantage of the mess in 2021. Shout-out to my ultimate protagonist and dudebro Chasen letting all the queens know they’re “smokeshows” and sending all thoughts and prayers to the PAs.
By Jonathan Kim
Among the many things this year has granted us, the absence of commutes, traffic and numerous errands has brought extra time into our lives. My brain seized the opportunity, deciding to use this time to think. But, unaccustomed to a schedule without constraints, I fell upon a slippery slope. Searching for a balance between letting go and burning out, I attempted to climb that metaphorical muddy hill, barefoot and in the rain.
The time I could have spent sleeping or reading or conversing with other humans, I spent engaged with my own thoughts. Whereas my days in high school were filled with inexplicably boring thoughts of to-do lists and the band rehearsal schedule, now my mind ran free. Once, I drove to the post office where I reimagined how the entirety of the last three years would have played out, had I not said something in one specific conversation. Other days I listened to the soundtrack of “Hamilton,” stumbling upon great epiphanies and realizations about life by means of the ingenious lyrics and Leslie Odom Jr.’s chilling voice replaying in my head.
“Sometimes life moves too fast for us to think.” This year, our world began to slow. With it, came a small understanding of how to free my mind. The happenings this year undoubtedly drew a new reference line for the lowest of lows. Nevertheless, through this collection of long, enduring months, I got the chance to meet a part of myself.
By Maya Salem
Strength is something sought after in moments of weakness. However, I feel like it is important to not acknowledge 2020 as a year wrought by pain and suffering, but as a strip of time — as a strolling moment that made us weak and determined to find the ways to overcome such an ill fragment of our lives.
Strength for many people this year was a key aspect of how to survive mentally and physically. Strength shouldn’t allude to just finding the motivation to do overly productive things, but extend even to seemingly simple tasks like waking up in the morning and finding the energy to get out of bed.
This year has presented us with an overwhelming dilemma, taking advantage of our weak spots and discouraging communities everywhere. However, I have seen strength in many shapes and forms, especially within the college youth today who face a plethora of online learning and financial struggles.
Of course, there is also the unmatched strength of people fighting the fatal disease known as COVID-19. Then, there is the unseen strength of those who never stop; people who distract themselves any way they can, because if they don’t, hell will break loose.
Everyone this year has been strong and proven themselves to be just that in one way or another, even if it feels like we are all standing on one bruised limb. Strength is vital to fast forwarding this moment that has stretched itself thin. I have hope that in the new year to come, the strength of everyone who has been broken down by 2020 will surge and leak into 2021, so that the only moments we face are full of happiness and healing.
By Kiana Perez-Granados
I’m not in the habit of giving names to personal belongings, with my laptop and Hydro Flask being exceptions. It used to be a quirky conversation starter that I could bring up, but it feels too overwhelming to name another object this year and then lose it. I’m very much still in mourning over the loss of Steven (my drenched and corroded MacBook) that I toppled a bottle of water over. I am forever grateful that, unlike so many this year, my loss is so minor and can be recovered with tutoring hours.
It’s sickening that COVID losses have been reduced to numbers — there isn’t a plaque big enough to inscribe over 2 million names. The numbers have overshadowed the singular names and lives, swallowing them into updates that are still being refreshed every minute. This year, names have managed to be so personal and yet out of reach: so many scribbled across posters and bills, shouted across cities and reverberated in our systems.
In the repetition of their names, they have somehow become larger than life and deprived of it. I’ve been thinking about a question that someone asked me a couple of weeks ago about a motion that I thought was urgent for Congress to pass. Immediately, I replied about the stimulus checks, and quite frankly, I didn’t expect a consensus at all. (I typed this a week ago and am still surprised at the audacity of the meager amount.) So many are outraged, their names flickering across a constant Twitter refresh, but I know they will be reduced to numbers too.
I’m not really sure what the point to writing all this was, and that about sums up this year. I wish I had a happier conclusion — I’m just hoping that all the names we’ve lost will dutifully be remembered.
By Priscilla Goh
No one could have anticipated what this year had in store for us. We have felt constantly unprepared, always left without secure footing. Things could (and did on several occasions) change in an instant. Being in lockdown for the better part of this year left a lot of time for me to sit with myself and dwell in my thoughts. I was faced with more challenges than I have ever had to encounter so far in my life.
2020 has given me nowhere to run from myself: forced to grow, to slow down and figure out how to take care of myself and spend time with myself. I learned that I needed to give myself time and space to heal. I learned to place more value on my own experiences. I implemented meditation a few times a week, journaled more frequently and made an effort to care for both my physical and mental health.
It is still a work in progress, but I hope that the things I’ve learned only grow and develop into 2021. While this was by far one of the most difficult years of my life, I’m thankful for the ways that it forced me to learn and grow. Here’s to a new (and hopefully better) year: a year for all of us to heal.
By Sophia Lovell
This year I started a journal. Ever since elementary school I never, and I mean never, was able to make the habit stick. I have several would-be diaries from my childhood with one or two sparse entries, sorry attempts at documenting my teenage angst that were forgotten about in mere days.
But this year felt different. Back in March, it felt like a million historically new things were happening every hour. I couldn’t keep track of it all. I was mad at being stuck back in my childhood bedroom, scared for my mom who had to go to work as a nurse in the middle of a pandemic and lost with nothing to do but wallow in my own confusion. So I started writing it down.
Reading the craziness of this year back to myself now, I can’t help but occasionally chuckle at my messy attempt to write through the chaos surrounding me. On April 6, I wrote about my first week of online classes. “It kind of feels like a joke.” My desperate hopes of a return to campus in fall seem unrealistic and naive now. I documented finishing my last week of my freshman year, online and not at all how I imagined it, and the utter boredom of the empty summer that followed.
Sept. 8 was the first entry that I wrote from my very first Isla Vista apartment, filled with happiness and hope. A week later, I wrote about how our toilet broke. On Nov. 7, the election was called and I wrote about euphorically running outside in the rain with my roommates and how “even nature was healing today.” Sometimes, I imagine kids in 50 years reading my journal in their history class. I think they’d be shocked at the sheer magnitude of what we’ve experienced in the span of a few months, but they’d probably still laugh at my horror of overflowing toilets.
By Co-Opinion Editor Emily Kocis
Resilience can be a hard thing to embody. This year, we have watched resilience imbue our society. We have seen our healthcare workers going to work every day in the face of chaos and too little PPE. We saw it in those who took to the streets demanding change after the tragic death of George Floyd. We have experienced resilience in our friends and family and, maybe unexpectedly, in ourselves. I am grateful for the strength in others that I have witnessed this year because it has been what has kept me going.
Thank you to the opinion staff for keeping us from becoming stagnant in our views and opening our eyes to the many challenges at hand. Getting to see your lovely faces on Zoom each week has been a highlight of the year.
2021 may be bringing more sheltering in place and masks with it, but back in March, many didn’t think it was coming at all. This year, we will all exclaim “Happy New Year!” in a sigh of relief instead of giddy exclamation. But 20 days later we will be able to let out another breath and hopefully in the months after, we will continue to breathe and heal and get on with things.
By Co-Opinion Editor Melanie Ziment