As the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, senior Claire Howell put on her mask, walked outside and made her New Year’s wish amidst distant fireworks: “I hope this year is better than 2020.” To most people, the New Year signifies a fresh start. But further into January, Howell wondered if she had somehow made a mistake wishing. “The new year feels exactly the same.”
To Howell, 2020 isn’t over. COVID-19, which she had hoped would be near disappearance by now, continues to impact her life. After breaking her back in September, it was difficult to get doctor appointments due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. She then had to get jaw surgery, in which she faced complications, including a collapsed lung, which still affects her every day. “I think many people were hoping to leave this year behind,” she said. “But I don’t think this came true.”
She is only one of the many seniors whose 2020 has been filled with not only college applications, but navigating college applications with the added stress of COVID-19. “The application process has been extra difficult this year,” she said. “Everyone is applying to places they haven’t visited and no one really knows how admissions will go with an increase in applicants everywhere and new test optional policies.”
Howell remarked that she didn’t know a single person who hadn’t struggled due to the events of 2020. Sophomore Chris Mason shares these sentiments: “I’ve lost people this year. My dog died. I had to make many sacrifices.” Mason was especially surprised by the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, in which mobs of Trump supporters tried to overrun the United States Capitol building in an attempt to reverse Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. “This violence and turmoil should not be happening,” he lamented. To him, it seemed to signify not a novel beginning of the new year, but an omen of what was to come.
Yet, even with these disappointments early in the new year, Pace students remain hopeful. “Even if we are all masked, I know me and the rest of the seniors will have a good attitude and make our last semester at Pace a great one,” said Howell. Freshman Wells Howe thinks that “2021 will be better, especially now that we have the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Students had thoughtful resolutions for 2021. “I want to get more involved in my community,” Howe said. “I could see how hard it was for my community to recover from things like COVID-19, and so I want to help.” Mason resolved to change how he sees and interacts with the world. “I want to see the good in situations like this,” he said. “2020 gave me more time to reflect on myself, to shape and define who I am a little better and also how I see the world.”
Howell’s resolution was similar. “While I already am involved, I want to get more involved in politics and social issues,” she said. Like Howe, Howell remarked that with the events of 2020, she was able to see her community close up and the reaction of people in the face of crisis. “In 2020, I realized that many things need to change,” she said. “In 2021, I want to work to make these changes.”
These resolutions seem to signify a shift among some in the Pace community. No longer are New Year’s resolutions flimsy, half baked declarations of “going to the gym more” or “getting organized,” only to be forgotten on the second week of January. Despite his struggles, Mason says that “2020 changed [him] for the better.” This statement applies to many students. They have committed themselves to not only retain hope, but have gone further and aimed to make change as well: a good sign for 2021.
Photo: (L-R) Seniors Isabel Battista and Amalie Little celebrate the new year by planning their resolutions. Photo: Grace Demba