We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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It was the start of 2020, and I was optimistic about how the year would turn out. At the time, I was content with how life was. I was happy to go to school every day and see my friends. The biggest concerns I had were doing good in school and figuring out what I want my future to be. Although life seemed normal, I wasn’t prepared for the rollercoaster of events that would come.

On January 26th, the news reported that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. It was hard to cope with this news because he greatly impacted all of us. I thought,”Surely this year couldn’t get any worse.” But I was wrong. As weeks went by, a virus called COVID-19 started to become widespread. This is when everything started to change. I didn’t think COVID would be that big of a problem, but it got to the point where we were all forced to go into quarantine. To put the cherry on top, a video went around of a black man named George Floyd, who died due to having a knee on his neck from a police officer. At first, I found it odd that a police officer wouldn’t even do something like this. But what made it worse is that this clearly showed the racial injustice that still exists in society.

These events greatly affected my mental state. My depression and anxiety skyrocketed. I couldn’t meet my friends, go out to my favorite places, and constantly feared that anyone close to me would die from COVID. This was the most isolated I've felt in awhile, and I rarely talked to others. I was also struggling academically. I found it hard to transition to distance learning. It just didn’t have the same feeling as going in person. I started procrastinating on work, and lost motivation. 

I didn’t know how to improve my mental health. Most of the things I liked to do became restricted, so the few passions I could do were playing games and listening to music. One day, I was trying to find new music to listen to. I stumbled upon Kendrick Lamar, a rapper from Compton. He sounded nice at first, but I didn’t take into account the messages he was including in his songs. I dug deep into his second album, Good Kid M,A.A,D City. This album is about Kendrick’s adolescence, and the struggles he endures in the city of Compton. His personal experiences included gang violence, sexual lust, and maturity. I grew an appreciation for him because the problems he endured were way worse than mine, yet he still achieved his goal. I listened to his third album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and I found that it was very prevalent at the time. He talked about many problems the black community faces, such as racial injustice. Some themes I heard were about systematic racism, oppression, and hope. Through this album, he became a voice for the black community. I started to feel less isolated, because I knew that I could relate to Kendrick in some way, whether it’s what we experienced or our views on the world today. It started giving me hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. 

After listening to his music, I started feeling happier and confident. It gave me the push to talk to others about my problems. By texting my friends and talking through Discord, I realized that we were all experiencing the same troubles. We all had a hard time catching up on work, and we were conflicted with the state of the world. It meant a lot to me knowing that I could easily talk to others. I thought it would be embarrassing or cliche. As time went by, I slowly improved academically. I was able to catch up on all my work and ended the year with a 4.0 GPA.

The first half of 2020 truly tested me. It’s nice to see that despite the situations I was in, I was able to find ways to get better. By listening to Kendrick Lamar and talking to friends, I felt more optimistic and aware of myself and the world around me. 

© Jonjon Guanzon. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.