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Photo illustration by Rachel McBride/VOX ATL

Pandemic Optimism: How Surviving the Pandemic Helped Me Grow

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This pandemic has been horrendous. In more ways than one.

In a previous piece of mine, I detailed the loss of my dear grandfather over this pandemic. I got into a lot of the ways that this pandemic has filtered into aspects of life that are seemingly unrelated to COVID. It affects newborns, the elderly, the workforce, and many things in between. There hasn’t been a whole lot of positive.

However, I think there is some glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for us young people that were able to weather through the worst of it. Having to self-isolate and quarantine from the outside world gave many of us a lot of free time. This is especially true for teenagers like me that had no bills to pay. Not only did we have free time, we had free time that wasn’t spent at school, work, or with people. We were by ourselves.

This time gave us time for something we rarely had time for prior to this pandemic: introspection. I mean that in every sense of the word, too.

Some people found their sense of personal style. There is a TikTok trend where people show their pre-pandemic selves and their post-pandemic glow-ups. Others were able to explore and rediscover their sense of gender identitySome people took up astrology and spiritualistic practices. Tarot and Astrology gained popularity on Twitter. Twitter even verified its first astrology account @milkstrology.

Personally, I was able to do a little bit of all these and more. This time to myself has allowed me the breathing room to understand my passions, talents, priorities, and aspirations in life. I’ll give you the run-down.

Early on in the pandemic in May 2020, I got my first job. The McDonald’s near me was hiring, and I’d been seeking a job for years before that. I took it, knowing I wouldn’t have too many options otherwise.

There I began feeling what I would describe as “adult depression.” I was working 40+ hours a week, only going home to sleep and prepare for my next shift. I had no time to talk on the phone, or mindlessly scroll social media, or read a book, or watch a movie. My whole focus was getting money.

I used that money to buy my first MacBook. My first iPad, my first AirPods, and my current phone all came from me slaving for $8.75/hour in the McDonald’s kitchen.

But, my mind was slowly but surely deteriorating in that place. My skin broke out badly and I was tired all the time. I slept until twenty minutes before each shift. I was late every day. Eventually, I quit one random Sunday. I’d tried giving a two weeks notice, but working at McDonald’s made me realize I never wanted to work again.

However, I came out of that job with a whole lot more technology and an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. I rediscovered my passion for graphic design. I even learned how to make fonts. I learned that my desire wasn’t to work, but to create. And so I did. I started my own online graphic assets shop via Creative Market

On a spiritual level, I realized that I had a lot of confusion and trauma related to my religious identity. I actually disassociated from my former religion over the quarantine. It freed me up so much. I’d spent so much time going through the motions. I’d been praying and trying to connect, but it just wasn’t there for me. And once I had the time to fully realize this disconnect, I was able to actually focus on what was there for me, and what I do believe. I think I am a much more authentic version of myself because of it, too.

I fully invested in community organizing. I actually had time to check my emails and messages when people asked me to get involved. Since the pandemic started, I’ve gotten a job at the Partnership for Southern Equity, revitalized my own youth council at home, and become a Creative Lead for the Sunrise Movement.

Through the Sunrise Movement, I took up photography. I’d never been able to afford a high-quality camera before, and Sunrise actually provided me with one. I haven’t put that camera down since I first picked it up.

I know what I want to go to college for now, design. Graphic design, specifically. I want to major in Graphic design and have some focuses in animation and videography. I’m actually excited to go to college now, rather than being unsure.

I’ve gained a new perspective of home. Atlanta used to be a place I wanted to run away from, but now it’s a place I want to embrace and water seeds in.

My stillness in this pandemic has transformed me, for the better. Prior to now, I wouldn’t have even been cognizant of this transformation. However, I’m more conscious now. I’m more grateful now. I’m more focused now. I’m more alive now. And I urge you to admire your own growth and transformation throughout these troubling times. As far as I am concerned, we are all roses out of concrete.

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