Every new year, I never write new year’s resolutions. For me, life is always perpetual, and time is arbitrary, so I never felt like a day like January 1 had any real significance from any other day or week of the year that I try to reevaluate myself and my choices and adjust. However, after a year as momentous and exhausting as 2020, I believe I deserved a time to process and reflect on the past year and thus make changes to take care of myself better in the coming year and reach my goals.
Here is what I learned: I believe many of us, me included, tend to conflate doing well with having an easier life. After all, I had pushed the bounds of my success in high school to go to my dream college, in hopes that a college degree from Rice University would open opportunities for me after graduation that would allow me material comfort, luxury and stability that my parents never had as immigrants and had always hoped for me. I have always looked forward to easier seasons of my life, whether that be the “lighter” semester I promised myself would come up next or the stable, stress-free version of the life I envisioned for myself after college. Everything I choose for myself is because I hoped it would one day bring me closer to a better, easier life. However, 2020 was clearly not an easy season for me, and I’m sure I am not independent in that sentiment. 2020 rocked us with the COVID-19 pandemic which meant smaller support systems in terms of both physical presence and physical size in quantity as we saw the racial, economic, and social inequalities that have always existed to be more exacerbated and visible than ever before. We saw our country be more and more divided. This was all extremely scary and after a spring semester that had been confusingly and abruptly cut short, I was looking forward to a restful summer, and a better fall semester that never came.
In all honesty, my fall 2020 semester was the most difficult times of my life; my mental health and personal life were extremely complex and emotionally draining, on top of a demanding course load and financial commitments in a pandemic that I didn’t really have the capacity to maintain. However, through the difficulty, I am able to see the good I had in that time. I have had unending support from my brother, Kenny, who is so much kinder than me and despite my (very big) flaws works a lot harder to understand and keep the peace between us more than I am physically or emotionally able to manage sometimes. I’m reminded about how lucky I am for my parents, who have been essential workers through the pandemic, who do their best to continue to provide for my brother and I no matter how tired they are. Especially my dad, who despite not being a talker tries his best to give me space to share my thoughts and feelings. I’m reminded of my friends and my boyfriend who have been my 24/7 support line and have given me a listening ear and support in any fathomable way they are able. I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have the resources that Rice gives me: an empathetic faculty, a supportive adult team at my residential college, the ability to access mental health care through the wellbeing center and counseling center. I am also so fortunate for Raj and the Momentum Team, who have been so understanding and have at the same time pushed me to develop my leadership skills and remind me to work on areas of growth every week. I am also reminded to use my own experiences to push for mental health access and Southeast Asian representation in our curriculum, team and students. Raj reminds me and all my teammates every week that we have to stay vigilant and not even let our guard down for a second, because we can not afford to let a student fall through the cracks they might already be falling through in our large public or charter school systems who are also facing the realities of the pandemic. Now, is when our students need us the most. It is also in this time that we have seen such fast growth in Momentum Education, both in the size of our team and the reach and depth of our services. It’s been overwhelming and amazing to see.
It’s in these difficult times that I’ve seen the most growth and resiliency for myself and for Momentum Education. So this year, I’m challenging myself, our team, and you, to wish for a difficult season instead of an easy one, for a season that allows us to see goodness and growth.