In a year full of overwhelming sadness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I also feel an equal amount of overwhelming anger. I’m angry at the year (and counting) I’ve lost and the memories I haven’t made. I miss soaking up the final sun rays in the park as the sun sets for the day. I miss spontaneously saying yes to a great night out that no one had planned for. I grieve a whole year of belly laughs that still ache the next morning that never happened.
Mostly, I feel robbed of experiences that might have shaped me into a different person than who I currently am.
I’m angry that I even feel angry about this because my emotions may seem hard to justify. How am I in any position to complain? Compared to others, I’ve endured the pandemic with minimal loss. Unlike many people I know, I haven’t lost any friends or relatives to the coronavirus.
So what gives me the right to be angry that I’ve lost a year of my life when others have lost so much more? In truth, I’m coming to understand that experiencing loss isn’t so black and white. It’s not relative. Just because my loss is different from others, doesn’t mean my grief is any less valid.
It’s estimated young people have been hit the hardest by the pandemic in terms of its economic fallout and its impact on our mental health. In a time when we’re meant to be finding out who we are through new experiences, we had to hit pause and instead watch the year pass us by in constant fear that we’re missing out on what is considered some of the best years of our lives. In fact, many young people have watched two birthdays come and go under lockdown.
Like many other young adults during lockdown, I went from living independently with friends while in college to moving back home with my parents. What’s more, I finished my four-year degree sitting in my childhood bedroom at 3:41 pm on a random Tuesday afternoon. I don’t even remember what the date was.
After my time in college came to an end in the midst of a pandemic, the sudden collapse of the job market meant the only work I could find was as a part-time employee in a supermarket. Though a little disappointing, I was grateful for this job since so many other 2020 graduates couldn’t even get that.
However, this job didn’t come without its challenges. For instance, I would spend days getting verbally abused by customers, despite being considered an essential worker. So, in the evenings I would be constantly sending out job applications in the hopes of landing something with more opportunity and that was also less taxing on my mental health.
However, I wasn’t just competing with other graduates who were now looking for jobs after finishing their degrees. I was also up against people with ten years of experience that had been fired from their job and would take a demotion just to be hired again.
Moreover, living at home after the independence college provided me was challenging as well. After having realized in college that I wanted to date both men and women, I was excited to start a new chapter in my dating life post-university. Instead, I was forced back home where I hadn’t yet come out to my parents.
All of this stress wasn’t bettered by the fact that everywhere I looked, young people were getting blamed for the spread of the virus. Despite many young people having hardly left their homes for the entire year, it was our fault for causing the second wave of the pandemic; never mind, the UK government urging people to go back to restaurants just to keep the economy afloat.
The worst thing was, we were called selfish for even suggesting we felt at a loss too. What was one year of our lives worth anyway?
As I watched my best friend cry to me over Facetime about how she had applied for 95 jobs over the last two months and had been rejected from every single one of them, I realized we were stuck in a catch-22.
Every day the news would highlight the horrendous numbers of lives lost from the pandemic. But at the same time, preach to viewers about how precious life was and how we shouldn’t waste it. Though, the only way we could make the most of life was by staying in until there was a solution to the virus.
Turns out, however, most of us were already drowning.
More often than not, I wonder about what would have been if the pandemic hadn’t happened. Would I be traveling the world as I had originally planned to do after college? Would I have fallen in love somewhere with someone after finally accepting my sexuality? What would the dress I had already bought before my graduation was canceled look like without the tags on?
Though we can’t change what’s already happened, we are still allowed to mourn for the year we have all lost. It’s okay to feel angry for what could have been. Ultimately, this year has been traumatic for all of us.
Even if you haven’t directly lost someone to the coronavirus, we have been inundated with images of people dying all around us. For example, we’ve watched in horror as India started to collapse under the second wave of the virus. And consequently, experts say we won’t see the true impact of this mass trauma for years to come.
I’m well aware my loss is minimal in comparison to those who have lost loved ones to the disease. And I’m grateful I even had the privilege to safely lockdown when many didn’t even have that. But I want people to understand— young people have lost formative years of our lives, and we should be allowed to feel upset about it.
It’s more than okay to be angry about the year that could have been. Because remember: what you lost because of the pandemic might be different from someone else, but it’s still a loss nonetheless.
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