Dear Class of 2020,
It was St. Patrick’s Day, and I hadn’t thought to take the world’s events seriously yet. Yes, there were coronavirus cases growing in Los Angeles County, but like any person of my age, I felt invincible. I still enjoyed time with a few friends, drinking and dancing, unaware of anything that was to come that week (call me naïve).
I woke up the next morning in wonderful spirits until I saw that I had an unusual amount of notifications in my school email. The first one I saw read: Important Updates About Spring Semester. Bracing myself as I opened it, I skimmed through the information about the pandemic. I read that school would continue in virtual instruction mode for the rest of the semester (okay, not too bad, I was already taking online courses this semester). Then I saw the words no upcoming graduate wants to see: Spring Commencement postponed until after the pandemic crisis subsides.
My heart dropped at the thought of not having a graduation ceremony. After 4 years of hard work, moving to an unknown city all by myself, and plans for my extended family (who I haven’t seen since before college) to come to Long Beach to attend the commencement, I was beside myself. I immediately tried to find more information. All I could find were plans for a virtual commencement via Zoom. In my eyes, a Zoom ceremony was a poor substitute for college graduation, but what else could they do in a time of social distancing?
I hopped on a group chat with my fellow fashion student friends. We discussed our initial sorrow over the news. Before this news, we used to talk about how excited we would be to graduate and celebrate together; how the prospects of graduation made the struggles of school worth it. We found pleasant news later that week that graduation would likely move to late fall... at least we could look forward to that.
After a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I realized this didn’t have to be such an upsetting series of events. While the virus is an awful thing itself, a postponed graduation isn’t the end of the world. I realized school administrations all over the world were probably just as upset as the students because they couldn’t give us a ceremony to celebrate our academic success. I felt even more sympathy for high school students who missed most of their last carefree semester before moving on to adult-life.
My mindset quickly changed from pessimistic to optimistic. Okay, I’m not having a ceremony, but I still will get that degree I put all that time and work into. I can still look forward to receiving my diploma in the mail to have for the rest of my life. I am healthy and safe and have my family’s support every day. I will still receive my Bachelor’s degree (the most important part anyway). I realize that there are so many people in the world that have problems so much worse than I. Some will need to experience the birth of their first child without their family and friends by their side. There are doctors and workers spending all day, every day, in the hospital away from their families handling this crisis for us. There are bigger things to worry about during this horrible coronavirus pandemic than not being able to attend my graduation ceremony. I had to take a step back to see just how blessed I am.
I can attend a virtual version for the time being and celebrate my accomplishments with my immediate family by my side. We have already planned to have a backyard fest on the exact day my commencement would have taken place. I already asked my mother to make her famous home-made lasagna. For me anyway, it’s better than any restaurant food we would have gotten after the ceremony. I can still put on the cute dress I thrifted, do my hair and makeup, and put on that cap and gown for a quarantined version of graduation.
While we can look negatively at the “new normal” Covid-19 has created for our society, we can also look at it with high hopes. For all of us 2020 graduates, let’s look forward to honoring our educational achievements as the semester ends, whether it’s now and at home with our families, or later on when hopefully this has passed. We have gained success through our hard work and it didn’t go unnoticed, we still get that degree! Also, just think of how epic the festivities will be when this pandemic subsides. I already know my friends and I will have our own graduation party full of dancing, awful singing, and plenty of drinks. We now have stories to tell our future children and grandchildren about the time Covid-19 took away our graduation.
XoXo Gina Checchia