COVID-19, riots and new surprises each month will be how generations remember 2020. But focusing on a better future will help us overcome these times of turmoil.

Everyone was excited for 2020 to roll around. Memes about partying like Gatsby circulated close to New Year’s Eve. Much to everyone’s surprise, 2020 was not the year of partying and instead was the year of isolation.

The beginning of 2020 saw the dreaded COVID-19 make its way to the U.S. and grow more and more vicious as the year went on. Isolating, social distancing and quarantining made it so that people couldn’t see and interact with loved ones for extended periods of time. 

I’ll admit, at first, I rolled my eyes at social distancing and isolating and keeping safe space. As time went on and COVID-19 spread, I didn’t roll my eyes as much and instead became more introverted than I once was. With my friends and people, I was comfortable around, I was still extroverted, but in public, I found myself being quieter. 

During IUP’s spring semester, when classes were moved to virtual Zoom classrooms after spring break, I didn’t mind. It meant more time to hang out with friends and to do more things I wanted to do that I couldn’t while traveling to school everyday. Now, I had more time.

But more time quickly became my enemy.

After the spring semester ended and everyone went home, I stayed in Indiana since I live here permanently. After the first week, I felt the twinge of loneliness. My work was moved to remote only and I rarely left the house. At first, I didn’t mind it. I love to read so I looked at it as a way to catch up on my reading.

Four books in and I was caught up enough.

As my mother continuously reminded me, at least there was texting and Zoom and FaceTime. I could still see and hear my friends; I just couldn’t touch and feel. 

In a way, I’m a person who thrives on social interaction. It’s weird, I’m very picky about who I spend my time with. But I’m a hugger. And not being able to hug people I love when I saw them pained me every single time. 

Then again, it was just like the previous summers when nobody was here. I entertained myself with Netflix and YouTube, getting back into playing the piano (a pastime I still love dearly) and I did have work still.

I also had the hope that, come fall semester, everything would be back to normal. It had to be. Other schools were opening back up, IUP probably would to.

You know the phrase “false hope?” Yeah…that was me.

I woke up to a text telling me to not check my email. And another text telling me to check it. I went with the latter and immediately saw why; IUP classes would all be virtual except for those that needed to be in-person, like culinary or some criminal justice classes.

My heart sank. Nobody was returning to Indiana. I was by myself, physically, once again.

I learned a few years ago that being by myself isn’t healthy for me. I need people around who love and care for me. And, while they could still be around over technology, I didn’t realize how much it would be like having them in person. And I really didn’t even notice that until about a month into the “new normal.”

Now it’s been almost three months. I’m counting down the days until my boyfriend and friends return, those that are, that is. I already have the date set in my phone of the exact day some are returning. I’m thriving for the day I get to finally hug people again.

Social distancing is frustrating and, even though it’s for the best, it doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to complain about it. Yes, it’s for the best, but it’s one of the most frustrating and painful things I’ve had to go through.

If you’re missing loved ones, call them, Zoom with them, FaceTime, even Snapchat. Phone and Zoom calls  have been my saviors during this annoying and frustrating time. Set-up dates with loved ones over Zoom; dinner dates, virtual movie nights or even just an hour to sit down and talk with each other. 

It can be scary, not knowing what’s going to happen. But stay safe and know that there may be rough days, but it can only get better.

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