As I sit here watching the final presidential debate, I continue to realize how different 2020 has been from any other year I have experienced. The first section of the debate covered the coronavirus pandemic, which truly showcases how important this issue is to the United States, as well as to the world. At the beginning of the year, a few days before Towson University’s spring break, my friends and I were naively excited about having extra time off; however, we were prematurely happy about an experience that would shape our lives (likely) forever. COVID-19 has affected nearly every person on this planet, and I feel saddened by the fact that it deprived the people I care about of so many experiences. My friends still have not had a true college graduation, my sister did not get to experience senior prom, and the children I babysit have started using the coronavirus in their imaginative play.

Another topic covered during the debate was the racial inequality that has become widely publicized since the start of the year. The “talk” was specifically referenced, and I can unambiguously remember when my own parents had that talk with me. They would say do whatever the police tell you to do—even if you don’t believe it’s justified—and call us every time you get pulled over. And although my experience is saddening and uncommon to people of color throughout the country, statistically this situation is especially deadly for black men. I have spent times sobbing over the fact that my friends, my dad, a significant other, all have a higher chance of being killed just for being who they are. 2020 is certainly not the first year where this amount of injustice and senseless death has occurred—but it is a year where these incidents have been properly documented, yet people are still getting away with their unjustified actions.

This year has not been a good one. I am very grateful to be healthy and alive, though I grieve for the people who have lost loved ones and not experienced appropriate milestones in their lives, due to the coronavirus and to racial inequality. I hope everyone goes through this year thinking about how their actions can truly affect another person, and that this prompts them to wear a mask or not call the police on a person simply because they deem them to be out of place. I hope everyone gains more compassion, empathy, and love and that they realize they have the power to create the change that they may seek.