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My 22nd Year Was Defined By Corona: How 23 Will Be Different

Anyone who knows me knows I am big into birthday reflections (I am a Pisces, after all). Taking the time to look back at your year and think about all that you accomplished, all that you went through, and all the wild and wonderful things you plan to do with your next trip around the sun is a ritual that can help us grow and appreciate our lives, and I live for it.

I turned 22 years old on March 11, 2020. It was a weird day, to say the least. After a weekend of whispers of corona, some punny beer purchases, and what would turn out to be the last semi-normal nights out of my college career, the WHO declared coronavirus a global pandemic. This was the day after Johns Hopkins, my alma mater, sent the student body an email saying that we were going on an ‘extended spring break’ that would end up lasting the whole year. I remember being on the quiet level of the library writing an essay, when the floor erupted into cheers, most other students assuming we would have a nice, long break and be back in April. It was surreal. I didn’t know if I should stay and work, celebrate, cry, or what, so naturally, I closed my laptop, walked outside, and called my mom.

Reflecting was pretty tough, considering I was drowning in my own anxiety.

The night of my birthday a few of my closest friends and I went to dinner, the whole time thinking, Should we even be here? We drank wine and ate pizza, and it felt a bit like the Last Supper. All the time trying to have fun, I had a tight, melancholic feeling in my chest that this would be the last time for a while that we would get to do this.

The next day I went home, where I have been since. Back in my childhood bedroom is not exactly where I planned to be post-college, but if I have learned anything it is that plans are never concrete.

This past year has forced me to grow and change in ways I never could have imagined had 2020 not been, well, 2020. There have been many good things: I graduated from college, I ran five half marathons, I got my first real job in the arts, and I have had an immensely supportive family and group of friends that have been there for me in ways I couldn’t begin to explain.

There have also been not-so-good things: I moved (and stayed) home, I was lonely and struggled with my mental health, I didn’t get to see many of those family members and friends, and I felt completely stagnant, like I was stuck on a stationary bicycle. And of course, the looming and very real fear of a global pandemic in a divided country, where the legitimacy of this virus was not always taken seriously and the painful reality of selfishness showed its face in our nation.

As I turn 23, I realize that I do have a lot to look forward to. First of all, vaccines are being distributed more widely, with President Biden claiming that the vaccine supply in the US will be high enough for most American adults to get one come May. I plan on moving out, I will soon get to safely gather with my friends, and I signed up for my very first marathon! I am also looking forward to hugging my grandparents as soon as I can. We are manifesting, people!! Despite the grey cloud that loomed over 22, I feel a little lighter coming up on my next year.

Your call to action is the same as mine, birthday or not: stay positive and look ahead. Think of all those who have made your year bearable and show them a little extra love. The best is yet to come! Also, I am having a big fruit tart as my birthday cake, which is epic. Cheers!

–Claire Beaver, Content Creator

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