Xochitl Hernandez (right) and her sister, Itzel.

2020. The year of 2020 vision. I could both see it and taste it. Starting in January 2020, I would enjoy taking the best classes I probably have ever enrolled in. In April, I’d be performing my graduating senior recital in fulfillment of my Bachelor of Music degree, and in May, I’d be walking the Oviatt Library stage for my CSUN graduation — the same way my mother did 22 years ago when she graduated pregnant with me.

My sister would also be graduating high school followed by college. For the summer, we’d be going as a family for the first time ever to Italy and Spain. Afterwards, I’d be off to study in Salzburg in the prestigious University of Miami Frost School of Music Summer Program at the Salzburg Festival.

After four years of struggle as a working commuter student studying two rigorous degrees being music and journalism, I could finally see the finish line. The breath of relief after a long run. I could feel it in my lungs. 

But Mother Nature had other plans. And the class of 2020 turned into the class of COVID-19.

It was a Wednesday, mid-way through the semester, when I received the email CSUN was moving to virtual classes. I remember that Monday, two days earlier, reporting on COVID-19 in our Valley View News class. My professor emphasized that the entire show would be about COVID-19, being that it would be the story of our lifetime. 

Since then, we have been under “safer at home” orders. I had to finish my last semester online. My senior recital was canceled, and my graduation ceremony postponed. Likewise, my sister has also had to finish her last semester of high school online —  including taking virtual AP classes — and missing her prom, track season, and graduation. 

Loss can be amplified in a pandemic. Moreover, the already difficult transition from college to a career is only more amplified in a self-quarantine, especially for a vocal performer and reporter/journalist which is entirely interactive. All concerts were canceled, leaving me no place to audition for a gig. Internship programs that I was accepted into and the Salzburg program have been canceled as well. Many companies and news outlets have either had a hiring freeze or laid off reporters. 

I cycle from different emotions and feel the stress of applying for jobs and the possibility of having to relocate in the middle of a pandemic, the constant working on my laptop for hours, the struggle to try to practice singing in my dry-acoustic room, and the evident unknown of tomorrow staring me right in the face.

Additionally, try living with an opera singer when each member of the family is having Zoom meetings. Close quarters for a Mexican family can always test our tempers. All while I finish my last final, feeling the obvious tension within me of having to move forward from a chapter that doesn’t yet feel properly finished. 

Like the rest of the Class of 2020, we have all seen our experiences dissolving from the hand we so desperately tried to grab them with. 

But while it seems I have “lost” the experience of my last couple months of senior year, and the opportunities I thought “should have” happened, I am not alone in this nor am I enduring the worst of what many others are going through.

I have seen a 25-year-old innocent black man shot and killed by two white supremacists, which did not get media coverage due to the pandemic. I have seen performing artists lose their income as concerts are canceled; underserved children like my mother’s second grade students who can’t participate in online schooling without WIFI or a computer; blue-collar workers going hungry after losing their jobs; and farm workers picking our groceries while not having access to health care. I am reminded not everyone has the luxury of staying home or being safer at home. 

We’ve all wrestled with the loss of or tension of something. However, I personally must grasp hope in believing that when this too shall pass, there is always the possibility of our losses being transformed into our gain. 

Viruses are meant to come, attack and die off, and I for one desire to emerge as someone whose life and career is living proof that by the grace of God neither a virus nor anything else defeated me.

I never thought 2020 would end up like this. But perhaps it can be redeemed into something even better than expected.