What Really Matters?

Meditations on 2020 and what really matters

2020. The year of contradictions. The year of unity and division. Hope and despair. Joy and distress. Patience and impatience. Learning and unlearning. Life and death. It contained a terrible pandemic – the worst in nearly a century. And it’s still not over. What a year it was.
And now, 2021 is nearly half over. I remember beginning this year walking down a snowy street, reflecting on 2020: the year of contradictions. It was unlike any year I’ve had – and it has most definitely been my worst. A gust of wind wafted my hair and chilled my eyelashes. The snow buckled uncomfortably under my weight although with satisfying crunch sounds. Children chattered in the background playfully. Innocently. Tree leaves were falling, shivering. My world is rather small in the vast depths of this universe. Millions if not billions of stars, galaxies, and planets surround our world and home. And we are alone.
If I died tomorrow, how did I live my life? Merely brooding over superficial topics? Topics, insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Topics that once complete are meaningless to me. Meaningless. Too often, we humans care about meaningless things. While a pandemic ravages through the soils of the world, I’ve been more focused on acing my History quiz. While a terrible virus steals the breaths of countless, I lay in bed, brooding over my English essays.
As a student, who am I? A slave to schoolwork, a mindless worker. A hard worker albeit an exhausted one at that. I avoided the ice crawling along the sidewalk. With bugs frozen inside, lifeless and hopeless. This ice was once water, a beautiful oasis. Water is life. Water is death. My past year of stress. Of terrible turmoil. Deadlines, pressure, and hopelessness. Falling grades and a bleak future. I’m slowly being frozen until I cannot move at all. Is this what school is about?
The giggling of children caught my ear. I stopped in my tracks. Snow was falling, cascading onto my head and melting on my bare hands. Laughing with cries of joy, they frolicked amongst the falling flakes. But I stood there, jealous. Jealous I could never be innocent. Jealous that they didn’t know the horrors of the world, or the scope of the terror people feel every day. That they never felt my pain or the pain of others. I stood there, jealous. Jealous that I could never feel pure joy; I lost my innocence. They were happy, hailing the incoming snowstorm ahead. Was I happy?
No. I wish I was a child. I wish I felt happiness – an emotion I’ve never felt in months. The cries of joy I heard evoked emotions I’ve never experienced before. As my chest began to ache, something was welling within me. It was not anger, sadness, or envy. It was not joy or melancholy. Rather, it was a mix of all these emotions swirling in an uneven mixture, unlike any mixture. I closed my eyes. Before me, I saw my own mental breakdown. Overwhelmed and overflowing with emotion, I could not handle it anymore. I let out a rattling cry of despair that no one heard; the cry was internal. No one heard it.

I quickly hurried home until it was in my sight. What a day. I’ve traveled around the block. My journey is almost over. What has this past year revealed to me about life? About humility? Gratefulness, and our ignorance as individuals? Our ignorance as a society? It’s different for each individual. I realized that even I am ignorant, ungrateful, and lack humility; the things I once found significant are now irrelevant. The things I cared about don’t matter on the cosmic scale of life. People have it much worse than I do. Society often cares too much about insignificant things. We should focus on happiness. We should think like a child.
I returned home to the warm embrace of my family, away from the chilly outdoors. As a pandemic ravages on, and as your future, along with countless other futures remains unknown. Knowing you will embrace the lips of death in decades, years, months, weeks, or days… how did you live your life? What really matters?