This year has been challenging, but there are still months left in which we can choose to try to leave with some “wins.” We can choose to be thoughtful, intentional and generous with our time (Hustler Staff/Rachel Wei)
“This year has been challenging, but there are still months left in which we can choose to try to leave with some “wins.” We can choose to be thoughtful, intentional and generous with our time” (Hustler Staff/Rachel Wei)

Junior Jolt: Why there’s still hope left for 2020

While this year has proven challenging for all, we can choose to stay motivated and grateful.
Emily Gonçalves

As I write, the new school year is about two and a half weeks away. It still blows my mind that it’s August already; the end of the spring semester and summer were a whirlwind of exams, introspective reflection, reading and tragedy after tragedy in the news. There’s a widespread sentiment that 2020 has been a terrible year, filled with pain, illness, exhaustion, inconvenience, interruptions and death, and that it should end as quickly as possible. 

While this somber view accurately reflects the many challenges we as individuals, and a community, have faced in the past few months, I think there’s still a lot to hope for in the remainder of the year. I probably sound relentlessly optimistic given the many challenges students face heading back into a mostly virtual school year, but I think there’s a special power in consciously choosing to look on the bright side. To me, looking on the bright side includes investigating how I can best spend my time in a more intentional and fulfilling manner, even during a pandemic. 

Acknowledging that many students have had much more challenging summers than I have, I’ve been thinking of ways I can not only get through the pandemic with all of its limitations on what I can pursue and experience, but do my best to enjoy it. One bright spot is how it’s encouraged me to reflect on how I’ve been spending my time, as I wrote in a previous column. I’ve also been really encouraged by the way communities and strangers have been banding together during this time to fight against oppressive systems, support vulnerable neighbors and spend more time with friends and family. The activism that has burst forth in recent months reminds me that the world, and its many injustices, have not halted during the pandemic, and there’re still many pressing causes to devote resources to.

Without the pandemic, I know I wouldn’t have had the time, energy or motivation to embark on various personal projects, read through 20 plus books or self reflect. As my fellow columnist wrote, now is a great time to take a step back and see if what you’re pursuing in life is fulfilling and worth the time, energy and emotional investment you’re pouring into it. If you can emerge from this time with a clearer, more well-rounded and confident idea of what you’re doing and where you’re going, I would consider that a win for 2020.

This pandemic has also given me new ways to explore and experience things. With companies and schools being online, a lot of people are checking their emails more often and are thus more accessible. I’ve been able to chat with professionals who told me that were it not for the pandemic, they probably wouldn’t have had the time to respond to my message, much less jump on a call. 

Another one of my pandemic discoveries have been the plethora of free, high-quality online courses. I was finally able to get a taste of a law-focused bioethics course and even get an introduction into philosophy. I was also able to take a look at Yale’s renowned happiness course, which helped prompt further reflection on how I spend my time. Once again, were it not for the pandemic, I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to delve into these topics and discover all of these amazing online resources.  

While I’m not advocating for people to fall into the trap of being the most productive person possible this semester (in fact I don’t recommend it!), I think it’s worth taking some time to decide what areas you want to be productive in, and why. This year has been challenging, but there are still months left in which we can choose to try to leave with some “wins.” We can choose to be thoughtful, intentional and generous with our time. We can choose to be hopeful of everything we can still accomplish, for ourselves and others, even in our current situations. We can choose to get the most out of this year that we can. I know I’m going to. Will you? 

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About the Contributors
Rachel Wei, Former Voices Editor
Rachel Wei ('22) is from Rockville, Maryland. She triple majored in human and organizational development, biology and English literature. In addition to writing and editing for The Hustler, Rachel is the Director of Communications for VSG and a member of the professional business fraternity AKPsi. In her free time, Rachel enjoys reading sci-fi dystopian novels, watching Broadway musicals and traveling.
Emily Gonçalves, Former Multimedia Director
Emily Gonçalves (‘20) was the Multimedia Director of the Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in Mathematics and Economics and minored in Latin American Studies. When she’s not taking photos, you can catch this Jersey girl making puns, singing, advocating for girls’ education and drinking lots of chocolate milk and espresso!

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