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It's thankfully time to say goodbye to 2020, but one can only hope that 2021 will prove to be any better.

2020 has been a unique year. 

At the beginning of the year, many people had high hopes for what was in store. Instead, 2020 gave us a virus that would turn into a pandemic that would affect everyone’s life in some way. COVID-19 went from being something that people needed to be aware of to suddenly shutting down schools, forcing students to move back home and putting people out of work. The world was forced to adapt to a new way of life. 

Possibly the biggest adjustment for people was learning how to work and learn from home. Most people have to leave their house and commute to work and school, so being forced to stay home as much as possible may have been difficult for the people who were used to being away from home for most of the day. However, these people are lucky that they’re still able to go to work or school as there are plenty of people who have been put out of work with the pandemic. 

This has happened to a few members of my family, who have their own videography business. When the world shut down back in March, all of their clients began to cancel their contracts because their businesses were obviously slowing down and they couldn’t afford the promotion anymore. 

Also, wedding clients began to cancel their contracts because of the social distancing rules which led to clients canceling their weddings. Many people who lost work were forced to file for unemployment, which is a process that could be its own article.

Shortly after the world shut down, people began wearing masks. This is a measure that has been weirdly embraced because masks have become a fashion statement. However, despite the improvement on their design, they still get hot after a while. Personally, I still sometimes forget mine when I leave my apartment to do simple tasks like checking my mail or taking out the trash. Despite how annoying masks are, I think they’ve played a small role in making activities such as going to the grocery store or attending a class in person a little safer. I feel like now, people can almost sense the judgement in the air when someone is seen without a mask.

And even though many colleges have had in-person classes and freshmen living on campus, it’s still wildly different. Both students and faculty have had to participate in new regulations such as daily health check-ins and wearing face shields. In addition to new on-campus regulations, most classes are either hybrid or completely online in order to cut down on the number of students in the classroom. Outside of academics, most campuses aren’t as busy as they were pre-pandemic. 

At JMU, freshmen have additional rules they have to follow, such as no guests allowed. Additionally, all of the student organizations have been forced to meet virtually. 

I’m in an organization called Bare Naked Ladies, a club that promotes self-love and acceptance, and we have virtual meetings and events. These virtual events definitely aren’t the same as seeing everyone in person, but they do provide a way to socialize with other people.

Finally, COVID-19 has affected the blind community in unique ways. When the world shut down, many blind people —including myself — lost a great deal of independence. Since it was no longer safe to take Ubers and busses, people in this community couldn’t do ordinary daily activities such as going to the store on their own. We were forced to rely on whoever we were quarantined with to drive us wherever we needed to go. Even though this may not seem like a big deal to the average person, it’s a big deal to a disabled person who’s used to getting themselves from point A to point B and it takes away a large portion of independence. Even though riding in an Uber or on a bus isn’t the ideal mode of transportation now, there are at least some safety precautions that can be taken that make it a little safer. 

2020 has been a year full of anxiety, life lessons and adjustments. It has also been a year of growth for individuals and families, a chance for one to re-evaluate one’s priorities, and a chance to slow down. It’s time to close this year’s chapter and see what 2021 has to offer us — hopefully not another life changing event.

Caroline O’Toole is a junior media arts and design major. Contact Caroline at otool2ce@dukes.jmu.edu.