Happy New Year! 

Usually, people tell you not to dwindle on the past, but let’s talk about 2020 for a moment. From the millions of lives that suddenly changed due to the pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, 2020 provided valuable lessons for everyone. Personally, I never realized how much I took my freedom for granted; I can’t help but wish that I had spent more time with my friends and family before quarantine. However, rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, let’s all use last year as an experience to grow and appreciate what we do have. I hope that every single one of us comes out of this experience as better people and a collectively more supportive society.

As we enter the new year, quite honestly, it doesn’t feel like much will change. However, situations never change, only people do, and we have an important choice to make. Will we succumb to the isolation that quarantine has brought upon us or continue to stay safe, not just for our benefit, but for our society’s well-being? Every single person has been affected by this pandemic, and it is important for us to realize that in this era, we are never suffering alone. 

This new year, I hope that more people will reach out and contact loved ones. Our relationships during this time are put to the test, but this challenge can help people grow closer. For New Year’s Eve, I celebrated with not just my family in town, but also with family overseas — something that I personally never considered doing before. I had the opportunity to reconnect with family I haven’t seen since I was a young child! Technology gives us so many ways to share our love, and I think we should use the new ease of global communication to become people who reach out to others. Yes, it’s difficult, but it is well worth the effort to maintain healthy relationships.

As beneficial as technology is during these difficult times, it’s only fair that we address its negatives as they become more prevalent. Mainstream media can be filled with such extreme biases that sometimes it’s difficult to discern between truth, exaggeration, and lies. My advice is to practice critical thinking; blindly following what the masses say and do leads to chaos and division. In a world filled with conflicting ideas, the best thing you can do is thoroughly research whatever you are curious about and make a rational decision about what is best for yourself, your loved ones, and society as a whole. Never jump to conclusions about anything before taking the time to properly examine it! Misunderstandings have caused the biggest conflicts in our world’s history. 

Now, think about what you would like to accomplish this year, especially during the ongoing quarantine. I, for one, hope to improve my productivity and self-discipline; I’ll enter my freshman year of college this fall, and I want to use my last semester of high school as an opportunity to become more independent. Whatever your goals may be — medical, educational, personal — the more effort you put in, the more benefits you reap. Change takes time, and whether the results are visible or not, hard work always pays off! So go and achieve whatever it is you have been hoping to do! 

It’s important to keep in mind that the type of society we create now doesn’t just affect us; its effects ripple out for generations. For the benefit of our world, the best thing we can do is instill hope and good values in children, but that means that we have to improve the way we behave and support each other as a community — especially during these extremely unprecedented times. There are thousands of children who are suffering from the mental stress of being trapped in an abusive household, isolated from friends and family, and unsure of what the future holds for them. Something as simple as asking the question “do you need help?” is all it takes to save not just a child’s life, but protect his/her opportunity to grow into a responsible and socially-aware member of society. It’s up to us to take care of each other, and together, we must ensure the well-being of children, our future. 

The events of 2020 may have taken everyone by surprise, but now we have a chance to learn from our mistakes and make 2021 as worthwhile as possible!