The Year Everything Changed

For young alums, 2020 altered plans, professional and personal, but added new dimesions to the question, “Where do we go from here?”

Author: Kit Loughran '16

Loughran 2020 Shutterstock

Chicago to St. Louis, then onward to Dallas. Next through Albuquerque. A quick breather in Scottsdale. And finally, California. 

If you told me in January that I’d be packing up my Chicago apartment, ending a three-year lease with my roommates Lizzie and Claire, and driving all my things in an overly-stuffed Suburban to my parents’ house in California . . . or that, instead of taking the L every morning to my Michigan Avenue office, I’d be Zooming from my kid bedroom (bright pink walls make for an excellent background) with my parents, 16-year-old brother and family dog as coworkers, I’d never have believed you.

But, it’s 2020. So everything is certainly believable, as we all know by now.

For my friends and me, this year struck at a strange time, four or five years since our graduation. As the pandemic spread, lockdowns took effect and social issues resurfaced, we were confronted with circumstances we didn’t see coming in our supposedly well-thought-out plans. This year precipitated a lot of decisions we anticipated down the road, expediting our next moves: where we wanted to live; how we wanted to grow or switch our careers; what causes we believed in; for some, who we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with. 

As quarantine orders were announced, my company — like many others — told us we’d be working remotely indefinitely. Unsure how the pandemic would unfold, I decided to work from my family’s home in California.

Loughran 2020 Masks
The year Zoomed by with unforeseen masked and distant detours. Shutterstock

The months in quarantine simultaneously flew by and dragged on, and as they did, my friends and I confronted “next moves” in our professional and personal lives earlier than expected. Friends like Kent took permanent remote positions, saying goodbye to Chicago and moving to California. Lizzie, Claire and I decided to part ways with our apartment, as Lizzie and I decided to work from our families’ homes and Claire got her own place. Others started interviewing for new jobs or applying to graduate school to make that next career leap. Some friends like Lauren and Mary very excitedly got engaged to their significant others.

The other day, my friends and I FaceTimed, downloading the highs and lows of the past year. In talking with each other, we recognized that despite the craziness of 2020, we’ve been extremely fortunate this year. The majority of us kept our jobs, and some started new ones. We remained healthy, even our friends Grace and Anna working fearlessly on the frontlines in New York City and Chicago hospitals. We got to spend more time than usual with our families.

We also agreed, this year put a lot in perspective for us. 

The difference we were able to make this year helping families, organizations and businesses facing serious hardship in the pandemic reminded us how with gratitude we can be a positive force in the lives of others and our communities.

The effects of this year, from the pandemic to social injustice, challenged us to step up while instilling a new level of social awareness, reminding us of the importance to stay strong in our values and beliefs.

And not being able to see each other as usual reminded us how important it is to cherish the moments we do get to spend together — make room for those FaceTimes, appreciate every hug, unabashedly celebrate the joyous moments, cheers every beer. 

We’ve definitely achieved a much deeper outlook on life and the world around us that we’ll take with us into the latter half of our 20s (which, yes, is still considered young alumni).

At times, this year has no doubt felt like a setback — leaving us wondering, “Where do we go from here?” While a lot of plans, goals and experiences got put on hold, new doors also opened. And, as we figured out how to maneuver, juggle and try to understand everything that 2020 threw at us, we discovered some new dimensions within ourselves, each other and what our next chapters might hold.

For me, hopefully that chapter includes no more Zooming from the bright pink bedroom.

Kit Loughran is an account supervisor at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago and a former intern at this magazine.