Dear Niner Nation,

I’m going to be honest. This year has been hard. It feels strange to write a cheesy letter that says “welcome back to academia!” as if things are business-as-usual.Things aren’t business-as-usual. Things aren’t like last year, or the year before. So that’s not the letter I’m writing.

This year has challenged all of us physically, academically and emotionally. 2020 is not what I anticipated. 2020 has brought me some of the most difficult times of my life. 

New Year’s is my favorite holiday. There’s something about making new goals, experiencing new beginnings, that really motivates and inspires me. A clean slate. A year of possibilities. I spent New Year’s Eve 2020 in my apartment with my best friends. I even had a New Year’s kiss. I had a long list of resolutions. I was having a great year as Editor-in-Chief, I had a fun part-time job, I was feeling good mentally and emotionally. I recognize the cliche, but I really did think this year was going to be a good year for me and those around me. 

So when March came and I was locked out of my newsroom, missing my friends and struggling to attend my now-online classes, 2020 didn’t seem so bright anymore.

Now it’s nine months into 2020, and I’ve spent six of them affected by a pandemic, beating myself up for being unmotivated, unhappy and clueless on how to exist. I’ve punished myself for my mental illness making everything more difficult. I’ve looked at other people and thought they were “coping” better than I have been. I’ve looked at my list of resolutions and thought of how much of a failure 2020 has been. I’ve thought about how much of a failure I am.

How messed up is that? Not only has 2020 brutally kicked my ass, but I’ve assisted it in the process. And I am sure I’m not the only student who feels this way. 

A lot of people are excited about the beginning of the semester, even with all the unknowns, and I’m truly happy for them. But I am a little scared. I am nervous. I am afraid that it will just be a semester of 2020 continuing to do what it’s done to me all year. 

So I am going to make new New Year’s Resolutions, and I invite you to join me. There are three months left in 2020. Although that doesn’t sound like much, think about how much changed from January 2020 to March 2020. Three months is longer than we think. While it seems as if COVID is not going anywhere anytime soon, we can adapt as best we can and make the most of the remainder of this unpredictable and peculiar year.

Resolution 1: Stop comparing yourself to others. 

We hear this everywhere from all the self-love gurus and motivational Instagram stories. However, I feel like it’s especially important right now. We’re literally living during a pandemic where almost every aspect of our lives is altered. People are going to deal with that in different ways. Yes, even after all this time. It’s still okay to be kind to yourself. It’s still okay to be figuring things out. You don’t need to be on a fitness journey because your friend is running every day. You don’t need to be learning a new skill. You also don’t need to stop if you’re on a roll right now. Wherever you are is okay, as long as you’re going forward.

Resolution 2: Stop measuring your days and worth in productivity.

Productivity, while valuable, should not be the goal of every day. We must get tasks done. However, when you find more worth in a productive day than in a restful one, your brain and body may get tired, and your self-worth, warped. You are worthy of love, rest and happiness even if you end your day with a couple things unmarked on your to-do list. 

Resolution 3: Appreciate your relationships (including the one with yourself).

During a time when quality time with loved ones may be limited, it is imperative to appreciate our relationships. COVID-19 has made me realize which relationships feed me positively. I have loved and cherished the time I’ve spent with my inner circle during this time. Calls to my family have revived me on difficult and exhausting days. Watching Schitt’s Creek with my roommates has been a huge source of joy. Texting my best friend at UNC Chapel Hill throughout the day reminds me that I’m loved. 

Connecting with others is something that truly makes life worth living. However, connecting with yourself is just as, if not more important. I have been relearning how to enjoy my own company during this pandemic. It is ineffable how important it is to be able to be alone with yourself. Listen to your body and mind, and give it whatever it needs. Whether it’s with a book, meditation, journaling, or watching Schitt’s Creek by yourself--appreciate the relationship you have with yourself. Be kind to yourself.

These are three resolutions I plan to uphold for the remainder of 2020 and I invite anyone to join me. We have three months left--three resolutions. I know I can handle that. I know you can too.

Or even if you don’t achieve these goals specifically, I challenge us all to make the best of this semester, this academic year, and the rest of 2020, wherever it takes us. This year is different, but it can still be good. We can still make it a good one, for ourselves and each other. I think making the most of this year, as well as life, boils down to being kind to ourselves and each other.

Here’s to a good, although different, year. And from all of us at the Niner Times: Welcome back. We’ve missed you.

Best wishes,

Madison Dobrzenski