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By Caitlin Haviland

This time last year, COVID-19 was starting to feel very, very real. What at first, felt like a two-week vacation, the virus was slowly starting to become a craze-inducing lockdown, and any hope of returning to finish out my Freshman year of college was rapidly fading away. Zoom was becoming second nature, family walks were becoming a daily highlight, and spending hours disinfecting the groceries was becoming routine. In short, life was boring—to say the very least—and with every passing day, it got more and more painful.

Over the course of the year, the world went from skeptical, too terrified, too fatigued, and back through the same cycle what felt like over and over again. Undeniably, the year has been a journey. But surprisingly, looking back, I’m not sure if I would change it.

The year was tragic, that’s indisputable. The world has endured so much loss: families have lost loved ones, businesses have suffered, workers have lost income, children have lost time vital to their social development, college students have been robbed of the prime of their lives. The year has taken so, so much that can never be regained. At the same time, however, I feel like we can’t completely ignore the positives so much suffering has led to.

For one, COVID-19 was an opportunity for families to connect. For the first time in years, my siblings and I were all back under one roof. The lockdown provided an experience completely unique to our generation: the ability to reconnect as adults. After years of us all developing as individuals, seeing one another only at holidays, we were thrown back into our childhood home, all together again. We were able to get to know each other as independent adults, and as challenging as it was at times, it was an experience I couldn’t be more grateful for.

Secondly, COVID-19 gave me a chance to get to know myself. While being thrown back into my childhood bedroom was painful, it did stir a lot of personal growth. Though lockdown gave me a lot of time to dwell on life’s problems, it also put me back in touch with myself. I had so much time on my hands, I was able to pick back up old hobbies, explore new skills, connect with my family, and honestly, just sit with myself and think. I went through dark phases, but honestly, I came back out of quarantine a much better person than I went in.

Lastly, if nothing else positive came from Coronavirus, an increased level of empathy surely did. In my 20 years of life, I have never seen strangers show so much kindness to one another than in the midst of the pandemic. From supporting local businesses to shopping for elderly neighbors, the world truly came together to support each other during this trying time. Through all of the darkness of the pandemic, seeing these acts of kindness truly gave me, and many others hope for the future. COVID-19 sucked, but it sucked for everyone. From birthday drive-bus to extended deadlines, I hope this new level of support and empathy remains far beyond this worldwide tragedy. COVID-19 brought so much pain to our world, but, if this increased compassion remains, maybe, just maybe, the year of hell was worth it.

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