The Truth about Graduating from College During a Pandemic
March 13th. That was the last day of in-person college classes. At first, we all thought this was temporary.
Two months later, I’m sitting on the floor in my childhood bedroom alone in my cap and gown, the birds are chirping and the wind is blowing. Silence. Today is the day I would have graduated.
I envisioned this day to be like the graduating class of 2019’s graduation day; my boyfriend graduated and we started the morning at The Draught Horse, my favorite bar on campus, then went to get his cap and gown, and then he was off to the ceremony.
I pictured the ceremony to be with hundreds of my fellow classmates amongst music, cheering, chatting, and ooo-ing and ahhh-ing about the decorations, the guest speakers, and the achievements we’ve conquered over the last four years. I imagined my friends and I laughing at how ridiculous the graduation caps look, complimenting girls’ shoes left and right, and discussing where we were going for graduation dinner in the city.
After everyone’s family celebratory dinners, everyone would meet up downtown at McGillians or Porta to celebrate the last four years and make the most out of our potential last night together. I see us laughing and dancing and our jaws dropping at the overpriced shots we just bought, but we don’t care. These are the nights we will remember the most, I tell myself.
As I snap out of this daydream, I hear my mom calling for me. I glide down the stairs and see the white and gold glittery balloon arch swaying in the wind in the backyard, the countertop covered in salads, cheeses and crackers, my favorite Mango Chutney dip, burgers, wine, champagne, desserts, you name it. My dog is jumping around outside, playing with her favorite orange ball. My cats are lounging in the sun, eyes closed and appreciating the warmth from the rays. This is perfect…I smile and help my mom set out the plates and silverware for our guests.
My best friend and her family came to help celebrate in the backyard (socially distant, of course) the day of graduation. We all sat around a fire and talked about how college flew by, the amazing things we had accomplished throughout our time as students, and our plans now that we are officially college grads. It was surreal – celebrating in the comfort of my own backyard, with my best friend who went to Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.
If this pandemic taught me anything, it’s to be grateful for what I have.
If this pandemic wasn’t happening, we would have never been able to celebrate together. If this pandemic wasn’t happening, I wouldn’t be able to take a step back and look at the big picture – how lucky I am to have a place to celebrate, with my favorite foods and favorite people. If this pandemic taught me anything, it’s to be grateful for what I have.
The best things in life aren’t planned.
This phrase is, for me (a huge planner), hard to digest. Quarantine started off scarily, with the unknown of how long it was going to go on for, the challenges with figuring out Zoom classes, the anxiety that came with not having structure, and having to adjust to being at home, locked inside, with your family.
But then things started to get better. I realized this lack of structure meant I could create an entirely new routine that would benefit my health and productivity significantly, and I could…tap into…my creative side? Freely?! Without the stressors from being on campus and being in 100 places at once? What a foreign concept.
So, yeah, I didn’t get the huge ceremony in the Liacouras Center. I didn’t get to graduate next to my friends, roommates, fellow classmates, those people you walked by and somewhat knew but never talked to, any of that. I didn’t get to watch my family in the crowd cheering or watch my mom cry when I walked across the stage as they called my name. I didn’t get the elaborate dinner at the best steak house in the city, followed by a wild night out with my best friends.
But you know what I did get? I got to wake up to the birds chirping, the sun shining, and my family congratulating me in their pajamas while they poured me a mimosa. My dog was jumping around in circles, trying to lick my face. Instead of a day of rushing around for ceremonies, dinners, bar crawls and making sure my mom didn’t get lost on her way to the restaurant, I got to sit back, sip my champagne and really take time to appreciate the last four years and the time and energy I poured into getting my degree. Dwelling on the situation will only make it worse, so finding the little things to be grateful for made this graduation that much better.
Once this is all over, I know my friends and I will race to Philly, get ready in record time, and start blasting music as we go out to frolic around Center City to celebrate properly. There is no doubt in my mind that I will cry when I hug my friends for the first time in months. College gave me an excellent education, a gritty work ethic, and the most amazing lifelong friends. The pandemic may have taken away the second half of my senior year, but it will never take away the memories made, the friends acquired, or the overall bad-ass college experience I had.
The pandemic may have taken away the second half of my senior year, but it will never take away the memories made, the friends acquired, or the overall bad-ass college experience I had.
Yes, I graduated in my childhood home’s backyard, and you know what? It was amazing. Thank you, Temple University, for the best four years of my life (thus far!) and for giving me the most selfless, incredible people along the way. I’m so proud of each and every graduate that had to endure our graduation like this; however, I hope you found the good in it like I did.
And lastly, to my fellow Class of 2020 graduates, once this is all over and the world is going back to normal, meet me at The Horse.
* Reposted from Britta’s blog with permission. Congrats, grads!