Graduation in a time of uncertainty

Empty chairs before the Clemson graduation
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Spring quarter is a thrilling time for any college student, but it is especially thrilling for students who are about to graduate. It is a time to get one last laugh in with friends, stress over finals and enjoy the chaos of campus life. With graduation right around the corner, the UCR campus should be brimming with students in their best outfits and graduation regalia. Unfortunately, with the recent campus closure going into effect, the fate of graduation is up in the air.

I have been looking forward to my college graduation since I was in kindergarten. My whole life I have been advised not only by teachers in school, but my immediate family to go to and finish college. After transferring from a community college and falling in love with UCR, I was excited to walk across the stage with the support of my family and closest friends. When campus closed I had hoped that the virus would blow over by April.

Now, with no end in sight, the small flicker of hope is dying out. Many people have said it is selfish to think of graduation when there is a worldwide crisis and countless people have been left struggling to provide for their families. For years, the thought of graduation has kept me afloat when I contemplated giving up. Graduation was a physical reminder that the struggle would be worth it. Every time I said no to hanging out with friends, every time I cried because I was frustrated or had to leave an event early to finish an assignment or study, would be made up by walking across that stage with friends and family watching.

It makes me wonder, if I miss out on this milestone, will my family still be proud of me?

I feel disappointed in myself because I should have pushed myself harder to finish in four years instead of five. I nitpick every mistake I’ve made in my academic journey. I view my temporary stumbles as utter failures because they slowed me down. Now I feel like a compass that has lost its ability to find north.

While in quarantine I’ve had to remind myself that the only thing I can control is my response. Every so often when I try and control what I can, I still get anxious about the fate of graduation. Graduation acts as one last cushion between the joys of being a student and the hardships of finding a career or going into a graduate program. It makes me fearful of what other opportunities could be lost if this crisis continues. It’s hard to move forward when the path is filled with bumps and unforeseen issues. I want nothing more than for this time of uncertainty to end. I want nothing more than life to return to normal. However, I just have to learn how to roll with the punches no matter how hard they are.

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