Everything had been planned and prepared. My cap and gown had been purchased for the Graduation Ceremony, my dress blues had been bought and dry-cleaned in preparation for the Commissioning Ceremony to be sworn in as an officer in the United States Army, and I had finally gotten my RSVPs back from family to account for how many people I would have to entertain.
But the cap and gown have not left their Jostens bag. The spiffy wool jacket and the pants with freshly-sewn gold braids down the leg have not left the hanger - and have probably collected dust and need to be dry-cleaned again. And my family is not coming to see me graduate, or commission...in fact, I MYSELF will barely be able to see my own ceremonies.
Zoom is our new lifeline, the facilitator of anything we need to do and anyone we want to see. Most students are struggling, unused to having to buckle down to work in their own tiny living spaces, unable to go to the library, their college, or even outside. Our eyes hurt from translating hours in classrooms into hours on computers. Our brains hurt from trying to cram down the last bits of information, without assistance from professors or the reassurance of classmates. Our hearts hurt as our four or more years of work and stress culminate only in a Zoom slideshow, where our names might show up on a screen (providing we had filled out the online form correctly.) No walking across the stage, no dressing up, no going out afterwards with friends and family to celebrate this accomplishment on the path of life.
Some students face the unknowable pain of having lost loved ones to the virus. Some have gone home to be with their families; some have to stay put to avoid unwittingly bringing the illness home to their compromised parents or grandparents. There are many pains out there that far outstrip the sadness of having one's graduation cancelled.
But we focus on the issues that are the most easily controlled. We will lay our caps beside our computer screens, and maybe put on pants to watch the Zoom stream. We will have powered through our classes, scraping by with only a C in some and relying on the Pass/No Pass system to keep a visible plunge out of our transcripts. And then we will be released into the world, a virtual diploma in hand, to encounter almost no job opportunities as the country struggles to right itself after the desolation of this pandemic. But we'll keep our sights set on the future and hope for better times...after all, our vision was always destined to be 2020.
|A Flying Cap (Personal Photo)|
Author's Note: This one came straight from the heart, because it's on the forefront of everything right now. I started writing just from my point of view, but somehow as I went it spread out to some generalizations on the class of 2020, most of which were drawn from and confirmed by complaints on social media. I didn't try to control any word count or anything specific, it just kinda flowed and fortunately the order makes sense in retrospect. It is kinda dramatic; I had my girlfriend read over it and waited for her to laugh at me. I had, however, failed to clarify that it was supposed to be a biographical writing so she called it "oddly specific" and "...a little self-centered...?" Rude. But with everything jacked up for the moment...we're doing our best.