COVID Rewind: Thoughts & Reflections
By Grace Wang & Abby S
A look into 2020 through the diverse eyes of interviewees from New York City. These interviewees describe their thoughts and experiences living through the pandemic.
2020 was a year like no other. With coronavirus, millions of people have died worldwide, and millions have lost jobs, income, family and security. And the pandemic is still raging.
2020 started with celebration, laughter, gathering, partying, sleepovers, playdates, concerts, movie theaters— one kind of normalcy. But in New York, since last spring we’ve found ourselves in isolation, separation, and lockdown.
What has it been like? Words and phrases that didn’t mean anything— Zoom, breakout rooms, social distancing, toilet paper, alcohol, gloves, masks, soap— suddenly have taken on new meaning. It can seem that we are drowning in a new reality.
Samantha Rodriguez, a high school senior in Brooklyn, describes her year as a “whirlwind. Definitely nothing anyone could have predicted.” She reflects on last year, “I just feel extinguished.”
In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty, Rodriguez had to go through the college application process. “Deadlines were up in the air, constantly moving and shifting. Schools were not even sure what was happening,” she says.
Luckily, Rodriguez had been preparing for the application process prior to COVID. She applied for a Posse Foundation Scholarship, which is awarded by a nonprofit organization to individuals with leadership potential. Rodriguez won the full-tuition Posse scholarship to attend DePauw University in Indiana. “I am blessed enough where my father has a job, and I have a full tuition scholarship for college,” she adds.
Thinking about the future, Rodriguez says she wants to live in the present. “To not get stuck in the whirlwind of technology and social media.”
Still, Rodriguez notes that even as time can seem to be at a standstill, things have happened. “Everyone is waiting for 2020 to be over, but life still goes on. People are still being born, birthdays are happening, anniversaries are happening”
Other residents face different challenges.
Amanda, a Girls Write Now mentor, has struggled making finances work to continue living in the city. At the end of February 2021, she plans on returning home to New Zealand because she is unable to stay here when there is no work. “I am really struggling with living off New Zealand money. Every time I bring over a dollar from New Zealand, I lose $0.40. And it’s just not making sense anymore,” she explains. It deeply disappoints her, because she loves being in New York.
Even so, as a visual artist, Amanda has been able to continue doing the thing she loves— creating art through the pandemic. Amanda admits, “I’m pretty impressed with myself that I’ve managed to maintain what I’m doing, even though at points, it felt pretty hard.”
She’s taken great value in the little moments she’s had with the people in person and has learned the importance of social interactions and communication with neighbors.
Olivia, another Girls Write Now mentor, took a job a couple years ago as a journalist in New York, and felt panic as lockdown began and she realized she would have to work from home all the time. “I definitely felt trapped,” she says. “I mean, my bedroom and the living room in my apartment both don’t have windows!”
Like many others, over time, Olivia finally accepted that the pandemic wasn’t going to be something short-lived. She has learned many lessons through her experience, such as finding that even in such a bustling city, “it’s okay to take breaks— whether that’s going for a walk, listening to a podcast, calling a friend or family member, or doing 10 minutes of posture stretches.” Sometimes, we are trying to set healthier routines and a path meant for healing and mindfulness of the life we currently live.
Grace and Abby, the mentee-mentor pair writing this piece, have both experienced ebbs and flows throughout the past year. Grace, who lives in Queens, says that the pandemic took a toll on her mental health, “I eventually got better. I got used to this new routine.” She has also gone through some pretty big changes. “I got my first job working at an ice cream shop,” Grace says. This year has also helped Grace find new communication tools and styles. “I’ve subconsciously gotten better at what I need,” Grace says.
Abby, who lives in Brooklyn, says, “I need more sleep than I used to,” describing this year as tiring. “It’s strange to me that soon it will be one year from March 2020,” she adds. “There’s a tree outside my window and it’s a beautiful big tree. It’s nice to see the seasons change,” she says of the things that make her happy. Although we all struggled collectively in different ways, some have found new methods to cope and adapt to this new lifestyle. The pandemic is not over yet, but the world still moves on, and the other side is still waiting for us. Hang in there, as better times are ahead.
Grace and Abby wanted to learn more about how other people experienced the 2020 pandemic. They decided to interview a few people, through phone and video chat, and worked on this article together. They reached out to mentors in the Girls Write Now network, as well as a friend of Grace’s to learn about her experience. The end result is a journalistic-style article on how a few people feel about this past year.
Abby is a Girls Write Now mentor and works as a writer and editor. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner, Walter, and their animal, Edward. She is an avid movie watcher, reader and she likes to bike.
Grace Wang is a junior in high school where she majors in vocals. She is very proud this year to have been accepted to the Broadway Dance Center’s youth performance company, Arts in Motion. When she’s not studying or dancing, Grace can be found reading, hanging out with friends or rowing in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Her favorite book is "Where The Crawdads Sing."