These are hard times for everybody. We all have lost or are going to lose something. It almost feels selfish to be writing this; but I’m gonna do it anyway. Because although some people have it much worse in the pandemic called the coronavirus and COVID-19, and I recognize that completely, 2020 college seniors have been dealt a pretty sucky hand from life’s deck of cards.
The last semester of college. Your final four months before being thrown into the real world. Whether your plans are some type of graduate school, the work force, a gap year, etc., it was a scary enough time before all of this.
The final semester isn’t all about figuring out what’s next. Though that’s a massive, stressful part, it’s about closing this chapter of your life. This chapter that shaped you into who you are today.
I frequently think about who I was this time four years ago. I wouldn’t recognize that girl if she punched me in the face. I’ve grown and changed and grown and changed twice over after that.
And I know I’m not the only one.
These past four years were filled with laughs, cries, stumbles, falls, successes, happiness, exploration, heartbreak, love, friendships, and much more. Attempting to put my college experience to words is nearly impossible.
We shouldn’t be taking our classes in our family homes. We should be collaborating with our peers face-to-face. We should be bouncing ideas off of each other about our projects and the futures we’re all so eager – yet terrified – to face. We should be attending job and grad-school interviews. We should be reading acceptance or rejection letters with our closest friends, ready to either pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate or a tub of ice cream to mourn.
We should be walking around campus, a bit slower than usual, taking everything in. For me, that’s the magnificent waterfall of green and yellow leaves flowing off the massive sea of trees down paths to class. It’s the sense of pride when passing the life-sized steel bulls standing strong and tall in the flowing stone creek outside the student center.
We should be having sleepless nights at friends’ apartments laughing and crying over nothing and everything. We should be attending every possible college event, if only to make sure we did it all.
With everything shut down and stay-at-home orders in place, we won’t be going to our favorite food spots to indulge in what gave us that freshman 15 three years ago. We won’t get to say goodbye to our favorite bars that were the sites of countless memories we’ll tell stories about in 20 years.
At what other time in life are you just a few minutes’ drive or walk from all your best friends?
We’re getting ready to start lives and go our separate ways. We knew this, but we thought we’d have another four months to swallow that reality. We thought we’d have time to say goodbye.
The biggest closure to college is graduation. Without that, the way we’ll end school is by submitting that last assignment or receiving that last grade.
We won’t get to dress up in our caps and gowns, surrounded by our closest family and friends gathered in this foreign place we call home. We won’t get to go to the bookstore and get our families college merch to sport and say to strangers with pride, “My child graduated from here.”
We’re not gonna get those pictures with our best friends in matching caps and gowns, smiling for so long our cheeks go numb. Taking those stupid silly ones that’ll be shared from our phones and framed in our offices for years to come.
To walk across a stage and shake the hand of our president, hoping and praying you don’t trip and fall in front of the thousands of people oozing with emotions of pride and happiness.
We need closure. Closure we’re not gonna get.
The majority of us won’t get jobs after “graduating.” The majority of us who had jobs lined up, will lose them before we even knew what we had. We’ll have to find a new way. And we will.
Everything happens for a reason. There has to be something good that comes out of this disaster of COVID-19.
The class of 2020 will be stronger and more determined than any other. We’ll use this incredible upset to fuel us, to make us more driven and willing to find our way. We were given the path less traveled (AKA the path never before traveled) and we’ll sprint along it until we find the light at the end. We’ll do it together.
Seniors, keep on keepin’ on. Finish out your online classes stronger than you would’ve in person. Let’s show, through our success, that this won’t beat us down. Let’s show coronavirus who’s boss – and then raise a Corona when we emerge proud and successful on the other side.