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benoit-dube
Credit: Cindy Chen

Who would have been able to predict where we are now, one year into this unexpected and unprecedented pandemic? Our lives have been upended and changed almost entirely from how they were not so long ago. 

It’s been a year when we all developed learned helplessness as we watched COVID-19 positivity rates soar higher and higher each day, while the number of deaths in our country increased along with it — all while being bombarded with disinformation in the news.

It’s been a year of uncertainty; after the unrelenting storm of COVID-19’s initial onset, we have been stuck on an exhausting roller coaster of hope, apprehension, and doubt.

It’s been a year of loss – both feeling lost and experiencing loss. Whether we’re mourning the loss of a loved one due to the virus, grieving the loss of what life once was, or wondering what comes next, we’ve all been there. And it’s not been easy. And it’s okay to say it.

It’s been an emotional year, filled with a lot of stress, that has come along with feelings of loneliness and isolation. But, it’s also been a year of transformation, potential, and promise.

Many have tapped into a previously unsuspecting inner strength to adapt in the face of adversity. Most have reawakened a search for meaning and purpose, reaffirming a greater importance for self-care.

Although it may be difficult to believe at times, we will get through these incredibly difficult times. Things are changing rapidly, sometimes by the minute. We must be patient and trust that our health care professionals, epidemiologists, scientists, and leaders will guide us through to the other side of this pandemic.

With every challenge, there are opportunities, and with the incredible work of scientists across the world, the development and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines have begun. We now have hope for a future where we can gather together again safely. 

Patience, perseverance, and hope will create a path forward for us.

I truly believe that we will be stronger as a society, with a greater understanding and appreciation for what it means to be together.

Working at Penn throughout the past year has helped me come to the realization that it’s the people who make everything better. It’s the healthcare personnel, the grocery store clerks, the sanitation workers, the housekeeping and food services staff, the contact tracing teams, the testing site crews, the researchers, the laboratory staff, our construction crews, our transportation staff, and everyone else who dedicated their time and efforts to keep our campus healthy and safe.

We owe an incredible amount of gratitude to each and every person who has demonstrated incredible resilience, remained nimble, and adapted to change in their roles across the University.

I am excited about what the future holds. This year, we can now look forward to being able to safely gather together in a modified fashion and take part in some traditional milestone events that we have so missed over the past year, including an in-person commencement. I feel confident that if we continue to adhere to the Penn Cares public health guidance, we will have more events like these to look forward to. Together, we can create a safe community for each other and for our West Philadelphia neighbors.

What a year it will be.

BENOIT DUBÉ is the chief wellness officer and an associate professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. His email is bedube@upenn.edu.

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