As we have all witnessed, 2020 has been a very unpredictable year, and as we brace ourselves to make it to the end of this tunnel, I decided to hop on 2020’s unpredictable wagon and do something I usually wouldn’t do. This personal essay titled "KOBE!" gives an honest rendering of my 2020, not just the key events we all experienced, but also the steps I took to keep myself sane during these peculiar times. If you need words of encouragement going into 2021, I hope you find them below.
2020 has left every single one of us dumbfounded, one event after another. For me, it was the passing of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, and the 7 other occupants of that helicopter on January 26th, 2020. Typing this while still processing the fact that Black Mamba is not with us anymore remains surreal. My elder brother is the biggest Lakers and Kobe fan I know personally, and they both had a role to play in birthing into my mind the idea of cherishing the game of basketball. I am convinced there are people who may have played different sports growing up, but who yelled “Kobe!” when they tossed some balled-up paper into the bin. Kobe’s influence traveled across the vast bodies of waters that separate our continents, inspiring a myriad of people all over the world, but a concept I try to remember is, we do not make an appointment with destiny. Destiny appoints whomever it wants, when it wants. In the sense of our desires, it brings us fullness. But more often than not, it unbalances and hurts. Kobe’s passing into the afterlife was a brutal reminder for me, to consistently cherish my family and friends until death does us apart.
In addition to this tragedy, the novel Coronavirus rapidly spread throughout our vulnerable planet Earth. It disproportionally affected the Black and Hispanic communities in America and forced each of us to ostracize physically from our loved ones, in order to “flatten” the curve. I believe humans are naturally social animals, and for this reason, a prolonged period of confinement can have some adverse effects on our mental health depending on the person. Now combine this with the continuous slaughtering of the black human bodies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin (the list goes on…) on the American soil by the police, exposing centuries of suppressed institutionalized and systemic racism.
Did I mention the most neglected crisis in the world which is the Anglophone crisis in my home country, Cameroon?
Or the bushfires that threatened to ravage ecosystems on the South coast of Australia?
What about all the families that prematurely lost loved ones and careers to COVID-19?
Or the ongoing femicide in Namibia and South Africa?
And the police brutality in Nigeria?
How about adjusting to school online?
Then, the passing of our King, Chadwick Boseman?
So how did I cope with these challenges?
The answer is hope, but before I delve into this, it is prominent for me to mention that I am an introvert with extrovert capabilities. I think I know how to enjoy myself, but also make other people enjoy and loosen themselves in a social setting. Additionally, I have the ability to dial down these social skills and concentrate on a task or goal that I have set for myself. With that being said, I cannot say I really struggled with the lockdown due to the pandemic and not seeing my friends or family, even though I dearly miss them. For this reason, when my friends complained about the lockdown, I told them I could do this for another year, and they called me crazy. Now, you probably agree with them.
Well, back to hope. Hope is to me, what a life vest is to a swimmer – a guarantee that I will keep afloat, regardless of the storm. Before having hope though, I had drastically changed the information I was consuming. When Kobe passed, when the pandemic started, when the prevalence of institutionalized racism in America was exposed to the world, all my social media timelines were flooded with these particular events for some time. I was being forced to consume this information over and over again. It is true that horrible events have happened throughout this particular year, and there is no doubt that there are very negative things happening in our world. However, I firmly believe that positive events, no matter how small they may be, occur at a higher frequency, hence, it is important to keep a holistic view, have a sense of proportion and a wider perspective when watching or reading the news in order to be conscious of the information you are consuming from your news outlets. Once I successfully filtered my sources of information, it became easier to have hope for better days. It was easier for me to make independent opinions about what was going on around the world and feel better, because it is true that whatever your mind feeds upon, your mind attracts to you. Hope is very different from optimism, which I think is more superficial and liable to become pessimism if circumstances change. I do not believe there can be a situation that is utterly hopeless. To choose hope is to firmly step into the howling wind, knowing that with time, the storm shall pass.
On top of having hope, I decided to actually start doing the things I always wanted to do but had the excuse “I don’t have time”. I personally have never had a time management problem; I think I have had a priority problem. I have trained myself to not say I do not have time anymore, because everyone gets the same 24 hours, but we all do what is a priority, or rather, what we think is a priority. I enjoy taking photographs of the beautiful people I have met, listening to informative podcasts, reading good books and articles, staying active, and on my better days, writing poetry. As COVID-19 cases surged and forced a lockdown, I was left with more time than I ever remember having throughout university. I did not have an excuse anymore, so I accentuated on pursuing everything I always wanted to do regularly.
By filtering the information I fed my mind, by daring to be hopeful for better days, and by persistently engaging in doing the activities I enjoy, I managed to remain sane during these peculiar times. I hope you find it in you to do the same just like I believe you can. As 2020 taught us, life is short, but long enough, to pursue your dreams and inspire, because you never know who might need it. If Kobe did it, so can you.