March 22, 2021

By Menel Raach, Staff Writer

“At that moment, while I was stuck at home alone, my journey of loneliness began.” 

When I think back on the past year, I realize that I’ve been through some of the most challenging 365 days of my life. It’s already been more than twelve months since I last hugged my parents, saw my family face to face, met my friends in person and visited my home country Tunisia. 

Menel Raach, staff writer, enjoying a walk in Berkeley, CA on August 13, 2020. (Photo by Menel Raach/The Citizen)

I initially didn’t take COVID-19 seriously when it was declared a pandemic last March. At that time, I was enjoying my journalism classes and covering the Pandemic news at the Peralta Community College District with my peers at The Citizen. But I never thought that would be the last time I would see them in person in 2020. It was then when we were forced to quarantine when I realized COVID could be dangerous. At that moment, while I was stuck at home alone, my journey of loneliness began. 

Perhaps like others, I’m currently feeling the emotions that come up with these painful memories. I experienced loneliness this past summer, I felt like a miserable solitary character in a science fiction movie. I didn’t share these bad thoughts with my family because I didn’t want to worry them. All the simple pleasures in life became boring. I was depressed for months and wasn’t enjoying food, movies, or appreciating the beautiful weather and nature. Life lost its taste.  

I tried to socialize through dating applications even though I hated online dating. But it wasn’t a choice since even talking with my family through messenger wasn’t enough. Frankly, I wasn’t enjoying talking to those guys and I was wasting my time. I wasn’t happy and was very stressed and depressed. Like a lot of people, I had a lot to deal with: uncertainty, homesickness and also a breakup. Maybe online dating was a stupid escape from myself and loneliness.

Menel Raach poses for a photo in Benicia, CA on January 1, 2021. (Photo by Scott Maynard)

Witnessing the massive death toll around the world also affected me. But after a while, those deaths made me realize that life is too short to worry about anxiety and sadness. Two weeks before my birthday in August, I decided to prioritize my happiness despite the uncertainty and negativity. Throughout this journey, I‘ve learned to be more patient and to increase my gratitude. Instead of focusing on my loneliness, I chose to improve my relationships with my people and take care of myself. 

The more I thought about death, the more I realized how I don’t want to lose the people I love or myself. 

So I sat down and started writing my lessons for the year 2020:

Happiness is a decision.

I have to express my love to all my loved ones and show them how grateful I am for their presence in my life.

I should enjoy every moment of my life despite the difficulties.

I have to treat myself like someone I love.

And I’m going to travel as much as I can.

Menel Raach taking her first ski class at Lake Tahoe on February 6, 2021. (Photo Courtesy by Menel Raach)

Like most people around the world, the past year was remarkable. We cannot forget the year of 2020 because it raises fundamental questions about ourselves as humans. The coronavirus was a life changer for me. It was an eye-opener regarding the importance of good relationships and socializing. Sometimes, we don’t realize the value of things until we lose them. Even if I didn’t lose someone to the pandemic, there’s still plenty of reasons to be sad. I’ve missed enjoying life’s simple pleasures with my people. However, social distancing has made me recognize that happiness resides in good and healthy relationships. And fortunately, Amid the pandemic, I walked away from the unbearable loneliness. 

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One Year Later is a five-part series by Citizen reporters who have been on staff since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. These stories feature their experiences over the past year and where they are now.