Finding Light in Darkness
Life is hard. There is no doubting that. Every day comes with its own battles.
In today’s world, life is a lot worse than some could have thought. We have the war in Afghanistan that has been going on for longer than us military teens have been alive, millions of people have been struck by poverty, almost all of us know someone who has an incurable disease, and the world seems broken. Our generation has to deal with all this, even before the formidable year of 2020.
2020 brought, of course, COVID to our lives. Nothing has been the same since that bat passed its virus to us humans. COVID means we need to wear masks all day, sanitize and wash our hands a crazy amount, and worry about just going outside. People die every day from this, the hospitals are filled, vaccinations are slow. And then, even with all the things we are doing, more people are still getting COVID.
Most activities, including school, have stopped. Some schools and activities have gone back, but they aren’t the same. It will take a long time until they are the same as before. There are lots of schools that aren’t even in-person yet. How long will it be until that step is taken?
The year 2020 not only brought us COVID, but also the Black Lives Matter movement. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others lost their lives, driving a response around the world. Protests took place all over the country, some of them extremely violent riots, making countless people even more afraid of what could happen outside.
Then there was the election between former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden. What a rollercoaster that was! The chaos at the Capitol captivated us all. It’s hard to imagine how such big and dangerous emotions can grow from electing new leaders.
This tension put our country in an awed sort of distress. Coming back from that is going to be tricky. Additionally, the Capitol riots put a black stain on the record of this country and democracy. It made us realize that we don’t have control over everything.
Finally, there is the fact that many of us haven’t seen our loved ones for over a year. Families were kept separate during the holidays, gifts were mailed, and Zoom became a new normal. Everything moved online: school, sports activities, music lessons, conferences, etc.
All the things I listed above are things that affect ‘normal’ people. Us military teens have all this to deal with and more stacked on top. Deployments, moving, new schools, and that’s just a few! COVID didn’t stop moves, it didn’t stop new schools, but it did prevent us from saying good-bye to the old before all this new happened.
For me, my dad’s deployment was extended by two months because of COVID. We then rushed to where we are now stationed, leaving behind all the friends and places I could not say goodbye to. I texted “bye” to some of the best friends I’ve ever had. After spring break, I never stepped foot in my school again. The last time I saw my teachers, they were all 2D images on a screen. We now live in a place where social groups are limited by numbers and masks. Furthermore, there is the stress of all the special rules military bases have.
All the battles will wear you down; they will hurt you and change you. Most days are the same, nothing special, nothing new, nothing different. Easing back to our old lives has been harder than we all expected. Yes, there are vaccines, but life isn’t returning back to normal like we all had hoped. It won’t be easy, but it will never return to the old normal. There will be a new normal that we will all just have to get used to.
We can’t let those difficulties wear on us. Surely they will be a weight on our shoulders, but we can’t always be expected to carry it. If we let burden build up, we will be struggling under it all our life. Our shoulders will be hunched, our eyes to the ground, feet dragging.
That is no fun. It will start to hurt so much you won’t be able to bear it. Some of the ways we think we can lift that weight off our shoulders involve things we shouldn’t do. Drugs, alcohol, even suicide. But instead of lifting the weight off our shoulders, it just spots us a little. Takes the weight off a tiny bit, enough for us to feel it. And when the relief goes away, the full weight - often more - drops back on our shoulders.
Instead, make an effort to straighten up a little. Look at the horizon, see how beautiful it is. Yes, it will hurt. Yes, it will take time. You will never get to the point where you are always standing straight. But just try it, try pushing your shoulders back. Try lifting your head up. Try walking with a spring in your step. Try thinking about the good instead of sticking to the bad.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow…” - Mahatma Gandhi
I guarantee you, you will feel better. The weight will be lifted. And when new battles come, meet them with a head held high and you will come out feeling better than you ever have before.
Change is hard, but it shouldn’t hurt you. You are strong, stronger than you ever thought you could be. But you don’t need to be strong enough to always carry that burden.
“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”- Confucius
So don’t live with all the terrible things building up on you, holding you down and not allowing you to truly experience life. Find what gives you joy.
With COVID keeping us indoors, most of us were able to sleep longer, relationships grew, and we got time to relax. I’m sure talents have flourished and a good deal of you have watched some of those movies on your list. Since all the extracurricular activities were stopped, families regained the time they needed together. That precious time created wonderful, lasting memories. People are growing stronger as individuals - mentally, physically, and spiritually. With the numerous precautions to prevent COVID, we also prevented the flu and seasonal cold.
With all the COVID patients in hospitals, as well as the many riots, first responders are getting the credit they’ve long deserved. This country has become closer to each other. Countless volunteers have given food to those who need it, made hundreds of masks for those who couldn’t, and showed inspiration in a time of little hope.
There were multiple breaks in the school year. Probably more than a few of you out there were secretly glad for them. Personally, I enjoyed the easier schoolwork and shorter school days. Plus, some of the teachers were slightly entertaining to watch while they tried to figure out how to operate the online classes. I also got to see a different side of my classmates and develop a closer relationship with the ones I could easily contact.
The Black Lives Matter movement is finally engaging people of all colors, not just the oppressed. People are now viewing others as equals, seeing them as actual people, people who have been hurt because others believe they aren’t equal. All these riots are giving people of color a voice they have needed for a long time.
There was a record turnout for the election, and, on Wednesday, January 20th, history was made. It was the day the first female, African-American, and Asian-American became the Vice President of the United States. Vice President Kamala Harris is now the highest ranking female official in US history.
The chaos at the US Capitol helped show us where all our flaws in security were. With every mistake, you learn something. We learned on January 6, 2021, just how powerful people can be.
Everything being virtual has introduced a new way of life to us, life on Zoom. Now that everyone has mastered the art of online video communication, we can use it during our regular life. Conferences and meetings can be online, online lessons are sometimes more feasible than in-person lessons, and it is helpful in so many other ways. I have been playing piano for four years, and if it weren’t for Zoom, I would be on my fourth or fifth teacher. My first teacher PCSed and my second teacher didn’t work out. My third, and best, piano teacher and I have both moved to different locations from where we started. Using Zoom, I’m still taking lessons from her!
Finally, we can all say that we made it through the historic year of 2020. We learned from the technical difficulties, stuck together through difficult times, and re-discovered how to be in close contact with our families for extended periods of time. We know how to do it in the future if this ever happens again. Although, let’s hope it will never come to the need to reference the experiences and knowledge we have obtained.
This past year, we military kids have experienced some of the hardest moves and deployments we probably ever will. With luck, that means the hardest stuff is now behind us. Also, as always, we will have many stories in the future to tell about this time.
In every situation, there is something positive. You just need to look for the beautiful light through all the darkness.
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