Robert Crohan/Staff Writer
This article is a part of PantherNow’s opinion section “Pandemic and Me” series
I have written extensively about the political and social impacts of this pandemic. However, I have yet to actually discuss the mental impacts.
COVID-19 constructed an emotional highway in my head, just like so many others. Some days, I was sad. Some days, I was eager. Some days, I was exhausted. Some days, I was hopeless.
Although I did come to enjoy staying home, that feeling did not last forever. By mid-November, the frustrations of being trapped in a house that, while loving, had its stressors, overcame my best intentions. I had to get out, one way or another.
And so, I have entered my next reflection, looking back on a tumultuous year full of suffering for billions of people, I have had to assess the extent of damage to my mental health. Thankfully, although there were bad effects, there were some upsides, ones that have reshaped my life.
First, the bad. Staying home for so long gave me a sense of cabin fever. I normally travel a lot, but even ignoring that, daily stressors gradually affected me more and more until I was ready to take matters into my own hands if my on-campus semester was cancelled again. I lived with an immunocompromised person, so I was forbidden from attending Black Lives Matter protests or helping with food distribution.
Going further, the scale of carnage in the world outside my front door left me devastated and afraid. Deeply disturbed by racism and politics, I wanted to stop and take a break from frantically reading the headlines and feeling hopeless, but simply couldn’t. Would there be more fatal police shootings? Would America go to war? Would the virus kill my family and friends? The questions were ceaseless.
But this brings me to a positive point. All of these things reinforced a feeling that grew in high school, that I am unbelievably thankful for the very blessed life I live. I have enjoyed it, and never had to worry too much about money or family relations. However, the context changes when put up against the realities for others on the grounds of societal factors.
So, my blessings are now privileges. And I now have a much better idea of what the aspects of racism are and how they touch every one of us. With my stress came the urgency to learn and unpack how racism ties into everything in our lives, along with what is needed from the privileged moving forward.
This has permeated into my broader politics as well. I went into 2020 as a moderate Democrat, and 2020 turned me into a very progressive one. I understood that issues of finance, discrimination and environmental preservation, among others, required big solutions. However, more reading and conversations have helped me understand the true, mammoth extent of hardship in America and develop the view that only very bold, FDR-style action will make any meaningful progress.
Adding to this, I have grown ever-more appreciative of the freedoms I enjoy.
I have always wanted to serve and make a difference in the world, and the pandemic has taught me that we can all do this in our own unique ways, and should take the time to learn and explore. In a time where so many are hurting and countless crises lurk behind every corner, I feel more confident in my ability to make a change doing what I love, while dodging the curveballs of saviorism.
All in all, this pandemic has given me a new mindset: one of appreciation, but with awareness. The negatives have been tough to overcome, but with things starting to wind down, I believe that I can emerge a more capable and thoughtful resident of this planet, and I hope that an even stronger sense of this uplifts so many others.
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