North Texas Daily

Graduating during a pandemic, one year later

Graduating during a pandemic, one year later

Graduating during a pandemic, one year later
April 29
10:54 2021

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, I never envisioned the country would still be facing a pandemic by the time I was going to graduate. I thought it would be over in time for the summer vacation I had planned in May. When it became clear the world was still in the thick of the pandemic, I thought I was being generous in estimating it would be over by my 21st birthday in October. But as the end of that summer neared, I realized we would be lucky to have recovered from COVID-19 by the end of the next summer.

In some ways, I am much more fortunate than the pandemic graduates before me. What should have been a momentous occasion for them was muddled with frustration, depression and grief. Many of them had to watch their names scroll across their screen as they watched in their cap and gown in the living room. Not to mention, it must have been difficult to feel triumphant or proud when the world around you is crumbling. And even if the graduates were invited back to participate in rescheduled commencement ceremonies, some had already moved away and started careers that kept them from attending. If they had come back, there is always the anxiety of being unvaccinated and surrounded by hundreds or thousands of strangers, even if masks were required

But in some ways, graduating now is not all that better. It has been hard coming to terms with the fact that yet another significant moment in life will be tarnished by this dark cloud of illness and death that is COVID-19. Never mind the fact I do not get to have my name read aloud and hear the cheers of my loved ones as I walk across the stage to receive my diploma like a normal commencement would entail. The hardest part is not getting to celebrate with all of my friends and family, many of whom I have not seen in over a year. Part of the joy in accomplishing something is the ability to share that accomplishment with the people who care about you.

However, there are things to be grateful for about graduating right now. I am fully vaccinated now, so there is less anxiety around sitting amongst so many strangers. And while the university is only allowing four guest tickets for commencement ceremonies, I get to go home this weekend and celebrate with some of my other vaccinated family members who could not attend. It might not be the same as before the pandemic, but this year’s graduates at least get some sort of celebration to commemorate their achievement. And afterward, they will hopefully have more job opportunities than were afforded to those graduating a year ago. Cases are diminishing and vaccination efforts are keeping more and more people safe. I get to graduate during a period with some semblance of hope and familiarity. Being a spring 2021 graduate means graduating at a time when there is finally a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Featured Illustration by Olivia Varnell

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Brooke Colombo

Brooke Colombo

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