Tomorrow I’ll be 21 years old. The colossal age where you can finally enjoy every aspect of adulthood legally. I should be excited, ecstatic even. I should be making grandiose (socially distanced) plans and getting ready to celebrate. But to be honest with you, my heart’s too heavy for all that, and I don’t drink.
I’m sure to some of you that seems over dramatic and needlessly depressing. After all, you only turn 21 once don’t you? Don’t get me wrong, I hope everyone who’s turned and is turning 21 this year enjoys it to the fullest and does so safely. You deserve it.
But personally, I just can’t shake all the things I’ve been seeing and reading. I’m an emotional guy, I’ll admit it. It’s tough being a hypochondriac and dealing with the anxiety that accompanies the pandemic. Even before the coronavirus waltzed its way into our lives, I was constantly worried about getting sick. It’s an anxiety-inducing nightmare, and now it’s my life.
Dealing with that, as well as the aching that has made itself a long-term guest in my heart as this year unfolds, just hasn’t put me in a celebratory mood. It’s hard to even muster up the strength to get out of bed in the morning.
Oregon, the beautiful state I was born in, is burning to a crisp, filled physically with toxic smoke and emotionally with terror. The once green Earth I love so much is sick with a fever called global warming, and unless we do something soon that damage might be permanent.
We say we live in a developed society, but people all over this country still have to gather by the thousands to protest for their own safety and fundamental human rights. They still have to scream in the faces of those who promised to protect us that Black Lives Matter.
When reflecting on these current events, I selfishly think to myself, “my birthday is ruined”. It is ruined, and to all those who turned 21 during this mess of a year, I’m sorry. But that’s not the end of the discussion. As I keep reading and reporting the news, as I keep watching catastrophe after catastrophe unfold before my very eyes, I realize something more every day. Beyond the conventional miracles of life on Earth, I’m lucky to even be here at all.
Given my asthma and checkered past with the flu, getting a bad case of COVID-19 could be devastating. Those with mild and severe asthma are at higher risk of getting severely sick catching COVID-19, and the virus can cause asthma attacks. In some cases it leads to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.
Aside just from myself, I’m fortunate that my parents, family, friends and all the people I love have managed to stay healthy during the pandemic and out of the fires that are swallowing the West Coast. Not everyone can say the same, and my heart goes out to them.
My dad always tells me that pain teaches more than it hurts. The emotional trauma brought on by 2020 so far has left me with an important lesson after all. By only focusing on the loss, I take for granted what’s right in front of me.
The fog that falls with darkness often leaves us blind. The weeks to follow and the weeks behind feel like a blur, obscured by the clouds. I was always looking forward in fear of what destruction the next day might bring, and unable to see clearly what I had today. This year taught me that you can’t always be looking ahead. Take a moment to look at everything around you. Look at all the people and resources with you in the moment to help you traverse this unknown.
I don’t want to celebrate my birthday this year, not how I usually would and not how I originally planned, and that’s okay. This year I’ll do everything I can to spend it grateful for what I have, and hoping that those less fortunate can find the strength to get through this.
It’s cliche to tell you all to count your blessings, it’s been said a million times and for me it’s lost its meaning. So instead I leave you with a quote from the strangest of places, WWE 2K19.
“I’m going to savor the moment, because you never know when it could all go away.”
I’m going to do my best to savor the moment. I may not always be successful, but I have to try. I hope you might find it in yourself to do the same. Brighter days are coming, but you can’t ignore the light that surrounds you now.
Austin De Dios is the News and Managing Editor of The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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