My birthday is at the end of February, so as a 2000’s baby, that meant I was welcomed into my twenties with a global pandemic and a lockdown. Happy birthday to me! My 20th year was not what I expected and certainly not what I would have chosen, but amidst the disappointment and heartache, there was growth and goodness. So, after a year of quarantine, with countless Zoom calls, neighborhood walks and life changes under my belt, here are some of the things I learned as a 20-year-old during the 2020 quarantine.

I learned little things like how you can only use “Really good point, thanks for sharing”’ a limited number of times in a discussion post and that I still do not like iced coffee (even if it is whipped). I learned that having a dance party in your room makes everything feel better, but using a beach Zoom background does not make you feel like you are on a tropical vacation. My coffee preferences and Zoom escapades have been educational, but in addition to that, I have five main lessons from 2020 to share.

1. Productivity at the cost of my mental health is not actually productive.

After spending much of 2020 slowing down, I realized that if I am sacrificing my mental wellbeing to keep up with my schedule, I need to reevaluate what is keeping me from being healthy. I learned that self-care was not just doing a face mask or taking a nap, but is different for every person, and I had to learn what works for me and start making it a habit in my life. I learned the humbling lesson that asking for help shows more bravery and maturity than trying to do it all by yourself. It only hurts you when you refuse to let others come alongside you during these times of heightened loneliness and isolation.

2. My voice matters and I have a responsibility to speak up against injustice.

This past year has been eye-opening for me as I recognized the injustice so many of my brothers and sisters face today. Before, I avoided speaking up because I felt like I was too uneducated to make a difference. This year I was able to learn that my silence during times of injustice shows complacency, and I am called by God to stand up for the oppressed and fight for the truth, even if my voice feels small. I have a responsibility, as a sister in Christ, to educate myself so that my heart is breaking for the things God’s heart is breaking for and for those who are experiencing injustice.

3. God brings people into our lives and takes people out of our lives for a reason.

I need to hold onto my relationships loosely, trusting that God is putting me in community (even if it’s virtual!) with those who will push me to become a better reflection of Him. I saw how easy it was to cling to relationships, even if they are unhealthy or hurtful, simply because there are so many memories and emotions tied up with them. I learned during the forced isolation that it is okay to surrender your friendships/relationships to Christ and trust that He is taking them away to help create space for new relationships. I also learned how to take care of my relationships by recognizing that working through conflict in a healthy way is invaluable. Lockdown removed the luxury of avoiding conflict because I had nowhere to run.

4. Be kind to yourself.

The challenges of last year showed me that my best does not look like other people’s best and that is okay. I can be in a different season than the people around me and still be growing and thriving. It is okay if my big accomplishment of 2020 was simply surviving! I had to release myself from the comparison and expectations I had created for myself. I learned that being positive and optimistic does not mean you cannot acknowledge your pain. You are allowed to have hard days and to feel big emotions while still recognizing that God is in control and He is good.

5. God is faithful.

Finally, the most important lesson I learned this past year of quarantine is that God is faithful. Last year while I was stuck at home, God reminded me that we do not always get to see what He is doing in our lives right away, but we can trust that He has never abandoned us and He is at work. His faithfulness has remained constant since creation all the way through COVID. I made it through the hardest year of my life and I am still able to say that God is so good and that I have grown even here, during the hard and unprecedented times.

I do not know what the rest of 2021 will bring. Even though I hope it is a bit better than last year, I know that I can say truthfully that whatever it brings, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalms 27:13)

Kate Marie Fitzpatrick (Psychology, '21) is a Peer Wellness Ambassador in the Office of Student Wellness.