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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dudinetz

Thank you, 2020

Thank you, 2020. You may kindly show yourself out. (But actually, thank you).

I'm tired of saying it, and I know you're all tired of hearing it, but I'm going to say it anyway. 2020 has been a year unlike any other. Most times, like we all know, it's absolutely sucked. I went from being a fairly independent 21 year old senior in college to being quarantined at home with my family, spending way too much time in my room and losing all sense of self and time in March and April. I unexpectedly said goodbye to my Uncle in May when he passed in a car accident, and had to evacuate my hometown due to flooding just four days later. To top it all off, I tested positive for COVID shortly after my 22nd birthday... So it's safe to say that it's been quite the year.

Let me preface this next part by saying I am, without a doubt, the most nostalgic person I've ever met. This year, even though it sucked, is no different. I can't help but feel thankful for *certain* parts of 2020, and as I make an effort to practice gratitude more often, I wanted to share some of what I am thankful for with you!

Thank you, 2020, for making me slow down.

In January of 2020, I knew that my April graduation was rapidly approaching. I remember the stress that accompanied January and February as I frantically applied to job after job, spending hours on LinkedIn hoping I could secure my next step. Even though I know this isn't true, it felt like everyone around me had already secured a job for after graduation.

I was panicking.

What would I do if I didn't have a next step? It might sound dramatic, but I was so anxious about it that I literally felt like my world would stop spinning if I didn't start a killer PR job the day after I graduated college.

And guess what? I ended up 'graduating' college by sitting in my childhood bedroom, with simply closing my laptop. That was it. I watched my virtual graduation ceremony while taking a bubble bath with a White Claw in hand (honestly, that part wasn't too bad). I didn't have a job lined up right after graduation. And guess what happened?

The world kept spinning.

And even though this time was filled with anxiety about the state of the world, I learned that even when I take the time to rest or don't have it all figured out... the world keeps going. And everything is ok.

Thank you for helping me realize what is worth keeping.

2020 was weird for a lot of reasons, but one that I don't think we talk about enough is how we no longer do certain things just "because". There were certain parts of my life that I feel like were cancelled or removed, due to COVID, that I really don't miss. My life doesn't feel any different without those things, and while I don't regret the time I spent in them, I have more free time to focus on other things.

On the other hand, 2020 didn't cherry pick what it took away. There were many parts of my life that were suddenly ripped out from under me that I desperately missed. Broadway, for example, is shut down until at least June of 2021 (Something I wouldn't even be able to fathom if I could tell myself that one year ago today).

Another one is pageants, which were essentially put on hold for a year. Losing a year of pageant eligibility felt like a slap across the face. This was something that I desperately wanted, but now with less time to compete, I feel that much more inspired and driven to hustle and give pageants my all once the time comes back around. I no longer have the time to compete half-heartedly.

Thank you for the opportunities you presented for me.

Sometimes I feel guilty for saying what I'm about to say, because I know that 2020 brought a lot more loss and pain for others than it has for me. I don't say this to invalidate or discredit any of the struggles that 2020 has brought for any of you, or my own, but simply to remember that there can always be good found in the bad.

When I was frantically job-searching, I felt like I had to do the biggest, most drastic thing I could. I felt like I had to move to a big city and land my dream job (which, I realize now could realistically take years) immediately. Anything else felt like failure.

But COVID made me feel at peace staying right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan - a city that I truly love and am in no rush to leave. Instead of living alone in a studio apartment in a daunting place like New York City, I live in the coziest house with two of my best friends, and feel like I want to live in this house and with them forever. The job I landed working as a Social Media & Communications Specialist for A.K. Rikk's wouldn't have fallen into place for me if the pandemic hadn't happened, and every day I find myself more and more grateful to be working here.

Thank you for helping me appreciate normalcy.

There are definitely things that I know I am never going to take for granted again. Here are a few:

  • Breathing fully and deeply into my lungs without struggle.

  • Hugs. Shaking hands. High fives. Any basic level of physical touch that we've been deprived of.

  • Being able to go into a store and smile at the person that greets me (like, actually smile with my mouth, which they can see), being able to make conversation with the person in the checkout lane without having to scream through my mask and protective plastic walls, and not having to keep a distance between everyone around me.

  • Traveling. Oh how I miss random road trips, flights, even just exploring new places in my town.

  • Concerts. Broadway shows. Pageants. Conferences. Parties. Weddings. The kinds of things that we get excited about weeks in advance--the things that keep us going and give us something to look forward to. Not having much to look forward to has been one of the hardest parts of 2020 in my opinion.

I wanted to end with a little reading I found online back in April, and have gone back to time and time again for comfort. I have no idea who wrote this, but if you know, please let me know so I can give credit!

"When this is over, may we never again take for granted a handshake with a stranger, full shelves at the store, conversations with neighbors, a crowded theatre, Friday night out, the taste of communion, a routine checkup, the school rush each morning, coffee with a friend, the stadium roaring, each deep breath, a boring Tuesday, life itself. When this ends, may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be, we were called to be, we hoped to be. And may be stay that way--better for each other because of the worst."

And finally, my 2020 montage video. It certainly doesn't look how I thought it would at all, but I am grateful for it nonetheless!



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