Dear fellow members of the Class of 2020,
I hope you’re staying safe during these difficult times.
I know these past number of weeks (months now?) have not been what we were expecting. We’re living through something that modern history has never seen before. Everything changed so quickly. Just over a month ago, we left our last classes. We left the classroom like it was a normal day, hoping to hang out on the weekend, feeling like the threat of coronavirus was still a distant reality. None of us was prepared for what was about to come. We didn’t know it would be the last time we would be seeing each other. Some of my friends and classmates have flown back home and are now thousands of kilometres away. I don’t know if or when I’ll see any of those friends or my instructors again. It breaks my heart that I didn’t get to say goodbye.
Our last year of university was supposed to be the year when we felt like we were on cloud nine.
It was supposed to be a semester of celebration that we’d been promised since before we started our academic journeys. We watched movies with people walking across university stages and pictured what it would be like when that would be us. There are people in our graduating class who are the first in their families to attend university, and the cancellation of convocation makes this even more devastating.
Sometimes I feel guilty for these feelings. Graduating and walking across the stage at convocation is a privilege. End-of-year banquets are privileges. Attending university is a privilege. People around the globe are going through struggles that make my missed graduation ceremony seem miniscule. But we are allowed to feel badly. It’s normal for us to be upset, because none of this was our fault. None of us deserved to be put in this situation and to lose the opportunity of creating these life-long memories. Anyone who tries to belittle your feelings should be ignored, because you’re allowed to feel badly about things going wrong. These are moments that define your life. In a sense, we’re grieving a loss.
I know some people might say, “Your class will go down in history because of these extreme circumstances!”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go down in history like this. I feel cheated and defeated by something that’s completely out of my control. What I want is for life to be what it was, where I could sit in a coffee shop to do homework, to make faces at my friends in class, to walk through hallways and classrooms again, to go to events, to hug my friends and family.
We can’t control what happens with our convocation ceremony and graduation celebrations. But just because this element is removed doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve to celebrate. Whether that be on Zoom with friends and family, or treating ourselves to something nice, or putting on a suit and hanging a makeshift “Happy Graduation” banner on your wall, playing “Pomp and Circumstance” and strutting across the living room.
You deserved to have your last class be known and to walk out of there proud and excited for the future.
I know it’s uncertain of what lies ahead, but you’ve made it this far and that’s worth something. These times are not what we had hoped for, but the hard work you have put in should not be forgotten. You deserve to feel proud of yourself. You deserve to take photos and hang your parchment up with pride when it comes in the mail. You worked your butt off, probably drank a lot of coffee, pulled some all-nighters to study, and had late nights at the library. You made it!
Lean on your friends, your classmates, your family, and all of your support systems. Reach out and offer your support to those around you. Everyone who was supposed to graduate this year is likely experiencing similar feelings. This is something that’s going to bring us all closer. I know that, years from now, when I meet someone who graduated from the Class of 2020, I will feel for them.
If there’s anything that I’m telling myself, is that this is all temporary. I know things are awful right now, but they won’t stay this way forever.
I hope that you find ways to celebrate your successes, pandemic and all. Take pride in your accomplishments. Don’t diminish what you have achieved. Wash your hands and stay home as much as you can.
A member of the Class of 2020