Photo credit: AZRA RAUFF

MY 2020: Coping with frustration and solitude

With the roller coaster year 2020 has been, I try to remind myself that there will be brighter and better days ahead.

Azra Rauff

Published: 14 December 2020, 3:58 PM

In this MY 2020 series, Youthopia writers explore everything that happened in the past year – the good, the bad, the ugly – and also share their hopes and dreams for 2021. What’s yours?

Like many, my 2020 was nothing short of disappointment and waves of anxiety. 

Boarding my flight to London on Christmas Eve last year, I was ecstatic. I was headed to the University of Warwick, where I would spend three months in the UK for a semester-long university exchange programme. 

I was thrilled to travel and immerse myself into the new culture. I had also planned my long-awaited solo trip around Europe at the end of semester. I was going to Amsterdam, Germany, Prague and Switzerland before flying back home in April.


A picture from my first night out in the UK. It was my first time there, so you can imagine my excitement. PHOTO CREDIT: AZRA RAUFF


Unfortunately, with the news of COVID-19, my plans quickly came to a halt as I was forced to return home mid-March. 

In all honesty, I was glad that I was being recalled back home. Being aware of the nature of the virus, my anxiety surrounding COVID-19 was constantly heightened. There was also a lack of safety procedures in the UK and I did not want to jeopardize my health and risk contracting the virus in a foreign country.


I was still able to travel around some parts of the UK and Europe before the pandemic got too serious. One of the places I visited was Bath, Somerset. PHOTO CREDIT: AZRA RAUFF


There was, however, a huge sense of disappointment. My solo trip was something I had been anticipating for years. I had even taken up extra shifts at my part-time job and cut back on my expenses to save money for this trip. 

For all of my hard work to be taken away by something I was in no way responsible for felt unfair. This trip was meant to be the highlight of my 2020, perhaps even the highlight of my youth, and now it was all gone. It was frustrating and there was a huge sense of loss that I struggled to grapple with. 

After flying back home, most of my time was spent in solitude, as the end of my stay-home notice was commemorated with the beginning of the circuit breaker. 

The frustration slowly turned into uneasiness. From living my best life in the UK, my dreams were suddenly snatched away and I came home to a reality that was far from comforting.

It was a difficult transition and I found myself engulfed with anxiety as I pondered on the uncertainty in the world.


During circuit breaker, the only form of human interaction I had (outside of my family) was with my boyfriend. We would Skype for an hour or two every evening, sometimes watching movies or series like Modern Love. PHOTO CREDIT: AZRA RAUFF


For the record, I wasn’t exactly lying in bed all day, depressed from the impending state of the world. I was fully functioning, ate three meals a day, took walks around my neighbourhood, and I looked completely fine. 

However, I always felt a sense of uncertainty that weighed me down. To make matters worse, my usual coping mechanism of exercising was no longer effective in helping me relieve stress. 

One thing that really did comfort me was following Instagram accounts that promoted self-care. Some of my favourites include @melanie.johnsson and @haleydrewthis


A quote I came across on Melanie Johnsson’s Instagram account that really spoke to me. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@MELANIE.JOHNSSON


Even five months later, when school began, the worry and disappointment I felt did not fade away. 

Every time a friend asked me about my overseas exchange, it felt like a reminder of how it was an opportunity lost. A week ago, when banks announced cuts to their interest rates, I felt my anxiety building up again, wondering how bad the economy could potentially become. 

Sometimes I wonder how the year is almost over, and how I barely did anything at all. It feels like a wasted year. But as I reflect on the missed opportunities, there’s nobody to blame. I made the best of my circumstances where I could and that’s all I can only continue to do. 

With the roller coaster year 2020 has been, my biggest takeaway is to be patient with myself; the frustration and anxiety will continue to haunt me for a while, and when it does, I must try to remind myself that there will be brighter and better days ahead.

With that said, I don’t have any big expectations for 2021. I believe 2021 will continue to be a slow year, with safe distancing, masks and temperature checks still in place. Even with talks of a potential vaccine, I’m trying not to get too excited about it. 

However, with the experience from this past year, hopefully, I’ll be able to cope better with 2021. 

Learn to manage your emotions better during these unprecedented times by ‘Braving The New’.

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