Although I like to share tidbits, I am typically reserved with what happens in my life especially behind the scenes. I am making this piece as a reflection of my 2020 timeline, making this an exemption (planning pun intended) to my normal lack of sharing.
Things were not very complicated in the beginning of the year. I knew in February that I was going to land a job and be moving somewhere away from home by May. Not too long after, Covid-19 broke out in the states, we were asked to leave campus and head back home. Mind you, this was the week after spring break, with a deadline of March 29 to be out. That deadline was soon pushed forward almost a week cutting my goodbyes, packing time, and moving time to a much shorter 24-hour window. Then came the limited teaching, learning, studying, and applications of trying to accommodate all in-person classes to a different time zone five and a half hours away. I always struggled with online courses, but this was a whole different level of challenges. It did eventually smooth itself over, and whatever difficulties were faced were accommodated with equally struggling professors and their understanding and forgiving flexibility.
Those complications became much deeper when my classmates and I received the news of no more graduation. Yes, I am part of the uniquely adaptive BUPD class of 2020. Unfortunately for us, the only real thing to show for it is our diploma and its sleeve; no photos, no speeches, no last second memories, and no celebratory closures. That is still somewhat of a sore part of this year, but as time continued, it proved that it would not be the worst of it. Cities and firms naturally had closed, shifted budgets, delayed applications, or even been removed positions entirely. This was one thing I had not really planned or expected to happen, especially within the plentiful planning realm.
Yet again, things became more complicated. Enter the Black Lives Matter movement. One thing I believe to have happened is that being confined indoors and plastered to TVs and phones, Americans began to see the issues that people of color (specifically black people) have faced for years. We as planners have the AICP Code of Ethics as our obligation, sure, but to me it goes beyond just the simplicity of a code; it is morals. I found this part of the timeline the most emotionally exhausting, with a constant lingering anxiety for what was next. It was this constant mental battle to try and explain with what education I have gained, to help people see and understand what the black community has faced over the years. How systemic and systematic racism is, and always has been, alive within our country. I continually am frustrated with the world’s lack of empathy, compassion, and understanding, but I am optimistic for change.
But, again, the year gets even more complicated. In this part of the timeline Covid-19 no longer becomes a news article or TV broadcast, it becomes symptoms, tests, phone calls, hospital stays, and then a funeral. It struck my family quite hard, aunts, uncles, cousins, and unfortunately, a grandfather. A family that cannot hug or be in proximity to one another, but one that must comfort each other with just the looks on our faces. It is not something I would have ever imagined happening in 2020, but it did. Seeing your grieving family and only being able to just watch them, is hard. What is even harder is being unable to attend your own father, uncle, cousin’s funeral because you contracted the virus.
But it gets more complicated. Insert hurricane force winds in the Midwest, insert election propaganda, more discrimination, more racism, more environmental hazards, more natural disasters, rising covid numbers, unemployment, homelessness… oh, and now I became a statistic. I have Covid-19.
In short, 2020 has been complicated.
By Michael Terronez, ’20 Urban Planning