Here’s to 2020

Featured Illustration: Mariah Parker


As the last few hours of 2020 pass while loud music blasts in the background and all across the streets of Dhaka, I am still trying to wrap my head around this year slowly. Honestly, there’s a lot to unpack here. I stepped into adulthood this year, all while the world came to a halt due to the pandemic. I never thought one of the most significant events in my life would coincide with one of the deadliest events of the century. As I close in on 2020, my headspace is all a blur. 

How am I supposed to deal with 2020 passing by just like that? December already holds a lot of significance in my life. My birthday is in the last week of December. So naturally, I am left to ponder about another year spent in my inconsequential life. Then in a week, the new year festivity catches up, and I am left to contemplate my plans for the next year. To add more value to 2020, it is my first year of adulthood, which means I cherish this particular year more than anything. But it’s also my first time experiencing a global pandemic. Oh, and did I mention I lost one of my grandparents this year to lung cancer amidst the pandemic? COVID took away the last year of my high school and took away my right to grieve. All these experiences collided somehow this year, and I am supposed to accumulate all that wisdom and be sagacious about it — bid 2020 adieu in a gracious manner. But I can’t.

When 2020 began, I had no idea what was coming for me. I was just a kid hopeful about starting a new decade and bracing myself tightly for all the changes to come starting with graduating high school. But COVID put a halt to everything, didn’t it? Or did it? I am aware that these year-end essays are supposed to be introspective, full of wisdom, and anecdotes to tie in everything. But I can’t promise to be graceful. I can only try. Gracefulness comes with age, so maybe expect that in one of my 2026/2027 reflective essays. 

I stepped into my adulthood this year. I feel more responsible for my actions now that I am in charge of my fate. I am grateful that with age, I have learned to cherish my parents and family more. I am thankful to be over that angsty teenage phase because I realized all those times where hurtful words were hurled at each other, the simple solution was communication. I am grateful that I have learned how to communicate with my brown parents now and can openly talk about my mental health to an extent. It definitely mended a lot of strained relationships, and things are better. I learned that it requires little to zero effort and a whole lot of hurtful ego to be the one to initiate a conversation first. But you will later thank yourself that you did, which feels rewarding in itself. 

Seeing my grandfather take his last breath in front of me, I am grateful that I got to spend 17 beautiful years with him. I still have memories of my childhood playing through my head where my dada patiently dealt with the stubborn kid I was, whether it was carrying me on his back without any complaints about back pain, or touring a shop three times because the ice cream flavour just wasn’t the right one for my fussy six-year-old self. 

When the world came to a halt in March, I had no idea our lives would change so drastically. I have so many tangible achievements to share this year but it would be unfair with that narrative. I achieved a lot — from representing my country on an international level to getting published by Wired. But my biggest takeaway was putting myself out there. I no longer stammer with my words, and I have this newfound conviction that I carry myself with. Although there is still a long way to go, I am proud of how confident I have become during this quarantine. This conviction transpired because when the world came to a halt, I got to prioritise what matters. I worked hard and achieved all these feats because I put myself out there. From getting paid for projects to tutoring a kid, I learned to be responsible and I am still learning. I am no longer that shy kid who used to live in fear of what people would think. “Go-getter” might be the word.

Bear with me because this is more of a philosophical thought rather than a personal one — when humanity faced one of its biggest unprecedented threats and time stopped altogether while a deadly killer silently lurked in the streets, confused and dazed, I found kindness in the bleakest of streets. I saw a glimpse of the thread — a thread that sews all of humanity together. When time stopped altogether, I saw kindness in words, actions — it was rampant. But so was the ugly inners of the same cloth sewn by the same fine thread. But this lesson was important, and for that I am grateful.

Because I know now that a little kindness can go a long way. I have integrated this with my own philosophy of life. 

2020, in other words, would be Zoom calls in EST, working on policy, change, writing, and everything in between. To bringing a change and talking about bringing a change about what’s wrong in the world over late-night Zoom calls. To fighting for equality, giving a voice to those unheard, protests, and more roars. From inspiring students and empowering them to take to the streets to protest — here’s to making the world a better place next year. 

Last but not the least, to friends who stay up till 5 AM with you to make sure you are okay after an anxiety attack. Friends who become your strength in the darkest of times and guide you through difficult roads. I am forever grateful for the strength you lend me on an everyday basis. Your existence keeps me going. To everyone who I have crossed paths with this year, it doesn’t matter if you are a thousand miles away or I haven’t held you tight in a while, I am forever grateful. Thank you for filling up the pages of my book with your presence.

Here’s to 2020. I could have ended the first paragraph with an f- you. But I tried being graceful.

Usraat Fahmidah

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