In January 2020, as we looked forward to a fresh start with the beginning of a new decade, many of us had high hopes. We didn’t expect that the year would be full of surprises, many of them involving cancellations, disruptions, and challenging circumstances.

Amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, a divided political scene, and civil unrest in the United States, we tend to remember the negative aspects of 2020. However, I believe that there is still much to celebrate about 2020. Below is a list of my top four things that happened last year.

At the end of the third quarter, many of us expected that we would return to school after Spring Break. Instead, the whole country went on lockdown due to the coronavirus, and we were forced to quarantine, which banned any social gatherings. Despite these difficulties, we found a way to socialize by using video communication services, such as Zoom or FaceTime. While stuck at home, many of us had the chance to reconnect with distant relatives or stay connected with close friends and family. A new sense of community was built as we all struggled through the pandemic together. During holidays or birthdays, my family organized Zoom “parties,” where we enjoyed good conversation and played virtual games like Among Us, Pictionary, or Never Have I Ever. Laughter and smiles filled our homes as we spent time as an extended family. Although we were all at our separate houses, these online gatherings helped us feel like we were still together.

With lots of time at home, many of us took up new hobbies to distract ourselves. On many weekends in 2020, I found myself in the kitchen with my new hobby: baking. The more I baked, the more sugary confections I could enjoy. So, I was in my kitchen whipping up desserts left and right, including crepes filled with sliced strawberries and whipped cream, fluffy Hokkaido milk bread (which is even tastier fresh from the oven), and carrot cake topped with homemade cream cheese frosting. Even though my mom wasn’t pleased with the mess I made, I managed to make up for my disorganization by serving up a weekly lineup of sweet treats. The few extras I had were given to my grandparents, who were big fans of my desserts. Although my consumption of sweets increased tenfold, I am proud of the accomplished baker I’ve become. Making desserts and giving them away definitely made quarantine a lot sweeter.

When home started to feel too small—with parents and siblings all working and attending school from home—many of us ventured outdoors to find our inner peace. Since the pandemic, I have noticed an increase of people outside. While I found myself enjoying a bit of fresh air, lots of my neighbors were also walking their dogs or strolling with their family members. I started to bike again with my dad and my brother, and my mom brought me to Kaimana Beach to go swimming weekly during breaks at 7 a.m. (when the freezing water would definitely wake me up.) Since most sport seasons were cancelled, I practiced volleyball on my driveway or at the outdoor courts at Ala Moana Beach Park. Instead of traveling off-island, my family went on early morning hikes at places like Makapu’u to escape the walls of our house and to enjoy the beautiful views of Oahu. We also took family road trips to the North Shore to get shave ice, and we drove to farther beaches like Yokohama Bay, a great spot to watch sunsets. While spending more time in nature, I learned to be thankful for the paradise that I live in, greatly increasing my appreciation for Hawaii’s outdoors.

With the U.S. Presidential election taking place in 2020, politics was a notable aspect of our lives. Even though people my age aren’t eligible to vote, we found ways to participate in our democracy. I saw many young people participating in protests in support of Black Lives Matter, for example. As I heard about the distinct and opposing political views in this country, I became more curious to learn about the U.S. government. I started to pay more attention to the news in order to seek the truth behind what people were arguing about, so that I can form my own opinion about what is going on. Other teenagers were also seeing and evaluating how democracy works and doesn’t work. For the first time, many of us were learning the importance of voting and how it allows us to actively participate in our democracy. Our generation will be the future leaders of our country, and I am glad that many of us learned the impact we can have on our government.

As I recall my silver linings of 2020, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. The pandemic gave me time to reflect, to become self-aware, to grow, and to be thankful. The year was by no means easy, but I persisted and came out stronger than before. As I look ahead into 2021, I am more hopeful and gladly welcome the adventures to come. I hope you do the same: Take time to think about 2020, reflect on the many good things that happened, find closure to the year, and be ready to start this new chapter of life.

Infographic by Megan Lee (’23)