A Year of Self Growth

It started like any other year. I was at my best friend’s house. We watched the ball drop like every other year and went outside and did sparklers. The first day of the New Year 2020 I said goodbye to my friend and went home. I wished my family a happy new year and retreated to my bedroom. I laid in my bed all day and thought, “Well this is boring.” Well little did I know. 

The last day of February came by with a joint party for my sister and I with our family. That was the last time I saw a majority of my loved ones for now over a year.

Everyone at school was talking about the coronavirus by the beginning of March. It was all jokes of course because we were middle school kids. We thought nothing could reach the States. 10 days after my sister’s birthday, everyone in the school district received the same email. “March 13, 2020 Students will have to go under extreme lockdown for 2 weeks starting March 16, 2020. Students will be able to go to school Monday the 15th to see their teachers and retrieve any items necessary for online classes. I highly recommend taking all of your belongings home with you.” This was the weirdest email I could have ever gotten. I mean surely coronavirus had not started to spread in the United States. My mind was racing. My mom had just gotten back from a work trip to New Orleans 3 days before this. While I was nervous for my mother, I hadn’t really been worried about myself. I mean it’s only two weeks and then we have spring break, right? I just went home that Friday and did my homework. 

I went to school that Monday dressed in an outfit I had picked out the night before. I wanted to leave the school looking good so that impression would stick for the next two weeks. I went to all of my classes and collected my things. I went home with this twist feeling in my stomach, but I decided not to think about it. 

When we went home and did virtual school, we did not have to attend any zoom meetings. We were just sent assignments, I had completed them before 2:15, and then I was free to be about myself. I wanted to stay on schedule, so I got myself up every morning at 6:30 am then ate breakfast and did my work. A lot of the time after school I was left to my own devices. I spent my time after school doing various makeup looks and chatting with my friends over Facetime.

April 2020 was one of the worst months of my life. I had never felt so lonely. I missed my friends, I could not stand being in the house, and all of my emotions I had been pushing down for years all came pouring out. I cried almost everyday. Always late at night though, I still didn’t want unnecessary attention. This continued for 3 weeks until Easter. I had a planned zoom call with my family during the day, so I knew I needed to put on a brave face. I got out of bed early in the morning (I still hadn’t broken my old sleeping routine). My mom curled my hair and I did my makeup. I put on this black dress with puffy short sleeves and little purple flowers all over it. I had felt something that day that I hadn’t felt in awhile. It was a false confidence. My mom and I had a little photoshoot and I posted on Instagram for the first time in a year. Our zoom meeting went as well as expected. We hadn’t planned a traditional Easter dinner, but my mom wanted to make something. I returned to my room to fulfill the promise of a call to my best friend. 

May came around as quick as my seasonal allergies but I needed to get out of my house. It was nicer out, so I just escaped on my bike. Sometimes I would ride throughout the streets. Most of the time I would ride my bike to the park near my house. I sat on the same bench every time, listening to the same music  as always just so something was filling my head  and I wasn’t left to my own thoughts. I’d watch the sunset and return home. 

Then a glorious day came. My mom had finally let me go and see my cousin. My cousin has to be one of my most favorite people in the world. She was two years older than me, but for my entire life she had been my other half. Without her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. She brightened up my days when I got to see her. Without seeing her for three months, my days darkened. I went to her house with my mom and a weight lifted off my chest. I felt physically and mentally better. We just talked and laughed and had an amazing time like nothing had changed. My mom did not want to stay long so we left shortly, but I held onto that feeling as long as I could. 

May was filled with lots of birthdays. These birthdays just consisted of a line of cars driving past a house with ridiculous decorations on the side and lots of honking. My aunt on my dad’s side allowed us to sit outside a couple feet away for my younger cousin’s birthday. My younger cousins are my favorite cousins beside my one cousin on my moms side. Especially my younger cousin, Bailey. She feels like a mini me and I like talking to her. She may only be five, but she has a wicked sense of humor and is widely intelligent. This being the first time in the couple months I saw Bailey, it really shot my happiness levels up. 

My parents finally let me see my friends outside only. We would always go on bike rides together and they would be on the other side of the street as me, but it was nice getting to talk/see them. 

     The morning I “graduated” I cried again for the first time since early May. It wasn’t sad though, just kind of a letting go moment. I got all dressed up and my parents and I waited in a line in front of my middle school parking lot to pick up important documents. I obviously got a certificate of completion, but I had also gotten an honors paper and I had made Principal’s list. I knew it was silly to be excited over it, but on the inside I was giddy. My parents made a big deal and I got really shy. I am never a shy person, but if someone compliments me on my academic ability or something I am passionate about I get really shy. My grandmom, my cousins, aunt, and uncle came over and they congratulated me (and I got shy again) and we went swimming.. I was surrounded by my loving family and I felt complete bliss. I went to bed with the most calm energy I had felt in years. I was at peace. 

The rest of June was spent waking up at noon, going swimming, going for a bike ride, going swimming again, and then reading a book or binge watching something on Netflix. 

This month I also started really educating myself on important topics. I had always been a big advocate for marginalized people, but this month really opened up my eyes to injustice that was happening all around me. I had begun educating myself and I worked to make sure I was advocating now more than ever. My voice was needed to uplift other’s voices that needed to be heard over mine and that’s what I spent a lot of time trying to do and learn about. 

We would occasionally visit my great grandmother. By visit I mean we would stand outside of her window in her nursing home and hold up paper signs of what we were saying. This was really hard on my mom because she had lived with her grandmother and she spent a lot of time with her, but everyone was happy that they could see her again. She had gotten covid before this and that was scary. She got covid a second time, but that still didn’t take her down. 

July was the same thing as June. Wake up, swim, talk to friends, ride my bike, swim again, watch netflix/read, eat, sleep, repeat.

As quickly as June moved to July, July moved to August. The first week of August I read all of my summer reading books. I really liked it. I also got my uniform that week. Everything was becoming all too real for my liking. I started really stressing out again. I was going to a completely new school; I didn’t know anybody; ; what if nobody likes me?; what if I’m not smart enough? My mind was spiraling. That week I was also added to a group chat of a bunch of people who were also going to be freshmen at Padua. A lot of people already seemed to have been friends or at least known each other from somewhere. This did not diminish my worries, until I saw enough people who did not seem to know anyone and also seemed a little too eager to make friends like me. One was Elizabeth. I added her on Snapchat and we started snapping back and forth. We grew an instant liking between each other. We were both a little bit quirky and out of the box and we weren’t afraid to be weird around each other because we knew the other was just as weird. She was my first real friend from school. Little did I know that I hit the jackpot of a friend. Thanks lol <3

The third week of August was the first time I was going to school in months. I was absolutely terrified since Liz was not in my orientation group. My parents mistook this day as my first day of school and my mom curled my hair and made me take pictures before school. I had wanted to get to school early and I thought I still was early after my mom and the pictures, but I was the last person in my orientation group to show up. The only desk left was the desk in the middle of the classroom in the very front row. To make it worse, I felt as though I was the only one who was dressed up and I felt very dumb.

September was nice too. Not nice to me like how August was nice to me. It was different. When I went to school and I talked to people I met at school, it felt like a different world and I was an astronaut. Everyday it felt like I was exploring or finding out something new. It was so interesting, but so terrifying. I decided to like it and let it happen. 

October was just a chillier September. November was a drag. November was when it started getting colder and it started to feel tiring keeping up with school work. I started spending all of time doing school and sometimes I wouldn’t even accomplish anything. I would just stare at my computer or notebook trying to accomplish something. I started not answering people’s texts and I would start to sleep a lot. This time was different though. I acknowledged that I was getting tired and I was not going to let myself fall down that rabbit hole again. I took a break from school and I answered my friends and I Facetimed them. I did a makeup look for the first time in a while and felt calm. When I was in a better mindset I went back to my school work and realized I was just over stressing myself out and it wasn’t as much as I built it up in my head to be. So I finished my work. This is something that I would never have done just some months ago. 

December flew by. Every time I got stressed or just overly anxious, I would let myself feel what I was feeling and then I’d try to do what I could. By the end of December, I was a completely different person than I was 8 months ago. I learned how to express myself and take care of myself. 2020 was the most challenging and difficult year of my life, but I wouldn’t change it. I would much rather be the person I am now than I was 10 months ago. Everyday I still feel like I am changing and adapting trying to learn new things everyday.

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