This year has been unlike any other I can remember in my 20 years of life. Yet, as we continue to progress through what feels like the worst year in our generations’ collective lives, I feel it’s important to remember the silver-linings.

Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted “To understand the man, you have to know what was happening in the world when he was twenty.” Our struggle, ultimately, is what defines us and what inspires us to grow. Right now, we’re all struggling; as a country, as individuals, and in our relationships. While this inspires growth in itself, it challenges our worldviews as well, defining who we are for years to come.

The events of this year, in spite of all the bad, have been invaluable to me. I’ve felt the effects of the pandemic, whether it be social isolation or feeling as though my future has been put on hold. For months now, it’s been difficult to find work, much less an internship that would meaningfully contribute to my career path. At the same time, it brought my family together in a way I hadn’t experienced since my oldest brother left for college, six years ago. This may be the most comforting prospect to come out of the pandemic for me. It helped me to foster an appreciation for those closest to me, which I feel I’ve taken for granted in the past. Furthermore, it has challenged me to grow as an individual. The passing of legislature, such as a COVID-19 relief bill, or supporting political beliefs, such as implementing nationwide shut-downs, was no longer just a political decision. These political actions now had immediate, tangible outcomes, very likely saving lives, or livelihoods. Experiencing widespread hardship made many of us, myself included, reconcile our political and social beliefs with the immediate consequences.

In the midst of the pandemic, our country is experiencing an election cycle and massive civil unrest. Just as these extenuating circumstances have forced us as individuals to face our demons, it has brought our society face-to-face with its own. We may seem, or even be, more politically, socially, and economically divided than ever before. Rampant injustice, the demonization of political adversaries, and class warfare dominate our daily news and it’s reasonable to feel demoralized when confronted by it. I believe it is easy to take the civil strife we’re experiencing at face value, accepting it as further evidence of the hopelessness in our situation. Regardless of where your beliefs lie, the unprecedented backlash to these phenomena is the most blatant evidence I can imagine of the contrary. Our generation is not sitting idly, not accepting the systemic issues we face as inherent or unmoving. We are, through protests, social movements, civic engagement, and various social platforms, making our voices heard, defining ourselves, and shaping our world as we see necessary.