2020. It’s been a ride, let me tell you! It has been a year of embracing silence, loneliness, and the mundanity of life. Without the distraction of socializing, I was forced to spend more time with myself, and that was a blessing in disguise. I caught up on reading. I applied to law schools early in the admissions cycle. I explored my interests through reading lots of books. I cooked. I cleaned. For once, I felt more in control. However, it is a privilege to be able to appreciate such moments. The world experienced a shock due to the pandemic. People died. People lost jobs. People were upset, angry, confused, misinformed, manipulated, and ultimately, people suffered. 2020 taught me to be grateful for the little things because it is the little things we take for granted that we miss the most when they are lost or taken from us.
To recap a bitter year with a couple of sweet victories: I started the year with great optimism. I naively believed that applying late to law schools would render me the results I wanted. Spoilers: it did not. I got into a few schools but with minimal scholarships as I had missed most scholarship deadlines. I was waitlisted for my top choices and later learned from the Admissions Committee through one-to-one meetings that by the time I had applied, they had admitted most of their first-year class already. I never got off the waitlist for my top choice schools. Regardless, I knew that it was not the right time to enroll due to the uncertainty that Covid-19 brought about. Then, my uncle passed away. I was worried about my parents losing their jobs or getting reduced hours, which did happen, and I prepared myself to financially support them as much as possible.
During this time, I moved back home with my parents and I continued to work remotely. A relationship that I was in for most of 2019 ended. It felt like I had been planning for the breakup six months into that relationship but prolonged it to avoid dealing with the emotional aftermath during a stressful time in my life. The relationship provided a sense of comic relief and consistency during an otherwise unstable point in my journey. Still, when it ended, it did crush me if only for how the breakup happened.
I decided that instead of blaming the other person, it would be more productive to look at the choices I made leading up to that relationship and during it. To oversimplify the issues, it came down to compatibility and intentions. We had different expectations, outlooks, goals, and preferences. In many ways, I do regret having stayed as long as I did, but if I hadn’t gone through that relationship, I may have never become the person I needed to be to meet the right person. In short, I am grateful for the lesson learned.
Not long after the breakup, I downloaded Coffee Meets Bagel on a whim. It appealed to a young professional demographic and included a filter for Muslims, which I realized is important to me. I noticed only one profile of a guy with a sweet, warm smile named M, and decided to message him, As they say, the rest is history! M and I have been dating since May 2020 and our families recently met. He is kind, compassionate, smart, interesting, understanding, and patient. He quickly became my best friend, which is the dynamic I have always wanted with my partner. I trust him and throughout the last six months, I have learned what a healthy relationship should be and how far a healthy relationship will take you in your own personal development. I thank God for this blessing in my life.
As these events were occurring, my family was going through a very difficult time. During Ramadan, my uncle fell terribly ill in Pakistan, where he was visiting his family, and eventually he was taken to the ICU. From there, things went downhill and despite a brief moment of hope, we eventually lost him. It was a hard month but I am grateful for the sense of unity that our prayers brought. I wish that we all had more time with him as his loss is felt every day, but God knows best. He got to see his sisters and be buried next to his parents, so I rest knowing that some things are meant to be as they happen.
Eventually, my mom started working again mid-summer and my dad continued to work his regular schedule. I was able to move to Raleigh to be closer to my job, which unbeknownst at the time to me, decided to remain remote until Spring 2021. However, living in Raleigh was exactly what I needed in terms of my emotional spirit. I reapplied to law schools and I have been accepted to my top choice! I am beyond excited to start school and begin this next phase of my life!
In conclusion, 2020 was a difficult year but it was the year of exposure. It exposed the lack of self-care in my life pre-pandemic. It exposed the deep divisions in our country, and it exposed the dangers of social media and technology. It exposed that we are not safe from radicalization, including those of us who innocently participate in the echo chambers that is our Facebook feeds.
On the bright side, we are having tough conversations that I hope we will continue to have. I hope that we will practice empathy as so many of us are struggling right now. We never know what someone is going through or what their outwardly expressions could be covering.
On the negative side, we are now aware that progress is an uphill battle. I am afraid that if we do not make changes to how we use technology and media, and if we do not do the hard work of outreach in economically depressed communities, including those that are rural, then we may be doing ourselves a disservice. We cannot keep pretending that our country is concentrated in our cities, that our pop culture is representative of the average American. If history has taught us anything, it is that ignoring an entire group of people who are basically neglected and left behind as the rest of the country experiences prosperity is a recipe for disaster. These are the thoughts I will be exploring in the new year.
But thinking of such, the biggest lesson I have learned this year is the importance of empathy and patience. I have learned that it is a privilege to have a higher education, therefore, I must use it for educating others, including those I do not agree with. I have to meet people where they are otherwise I will not see the change I want to see in this world. I cannot expect others to do that work because it is difficult, emotional work to engage in discourse – but I wouldn’t be doing people any favors by looking down those I do not agree with.
Now, without further ado, here’s to continuing my tradition of lessons learned and goals:
Lessons Learned in 2020:
- Practice empathy, especially when it is hard to. Anger and hostility leads to no progress.
- Materialistic possessions do not matter. Home, family/friends, and a steady source of income does.
- We can make a difference in our community, even if it is just by helping one person. Help people whenever possible. You lose nothing by engaging in acts of kindness.
- Be brave enough to walk away from your comfort zone, whether that is a relationship, a job, or a decided path. Things change. Adapt. And when something isn’t right for you, have the courage to find what is.
- Be firm in your convictions and selfish with your inner-peace. People will try to bend you. You are the one who decides what your boundaries are. You do not need to invite chaos into your life. It is okay to choose to let go.
Goals for 2021:
- Make use of your Passion Planner to stay organized.
- Be minimalist with your time, money/spending, and material possessions.
- Spend your time efficiently and as much as possible with family.
- Lose 25 pounds by 25th birthday.
- Continue to enrich my life by learning about new things, travelling to new places, and being open-minded to new experiences.