Why celebrate graduating from college when we’re still in a pandemic?

A senior shares why she won’t feel like celebrating her achievement of graduating from college next year.

Listen to the author read their essay.

I don’t feel like celebrating. 

My family doesn’t celebrate much to begin with. My brother and I stopped having birthday parties in elementary school. 

My dad is the kind of person to forget his own birthday or ask, “Why celebrate college graduation? Everyone has a degree now.”

But graduating from college in May 2021 was something special I had planned since freshman year. 

I wanted to have dinner with my family at Penang, a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown, and wear the red dress that is currently gathering dust in the back of my closet. My makeup was going to be perfect, featuring a signature winged eyeliner and bright red Fenty Beauty lipstick. Even now, I can smell the roses I was planning to buy myself.

For my high school graduation, I wore my brother’s cap and gown, despite the fact that he’s almost a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than me. It wasn’t worth investing in another cheap plastic gown when I could save my money for coffee instead. Plus, it was suitable for my chilly June graduation in Ambler, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t the best graduation, but I thought as a graduating senior at Temple University it would be better this time around. 

I wanted to decorate my cap with paint and glitter. But I haven’t even bought my cap and gown yet, and I don’t think I will. I’ll probably save my money instead to spend on application fees for graduate school. 

Because today, why celebrate when the world is spiraling into chaos?

It’s my senior year. This year I should have been with my friends, laughing until 2 o’clock in the morning. But none of these things are a possibility now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city was vibrant and alive, and I wanted to get one more taste of that before graduating and leaving the city. 

Where is the joy in spending six hours in front of a screen?

Instead, I’m home in beautiful Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, taking classes remotely.

Canvas, the online learning platform, added a feature this semester where it rains confetti after submitting an assignment. It’s as if they read our minds and knew we needed a pick-me-up. 

My clinical psychology professor told me to “find the joy in every day” during office hours. But I really don’t have the energy to do this. Where is the joy in spending six hours in front of a screen? Where is the joy in my eyes feeling heavy by 3 p.m.?

I long to see my friends between classes and drink overpriced coffee from Saxbys at Temple. When I hang up after talking to them on the phone, I feel a sense of dread. I used to see them every day, either passing by on campus or eating meals together. These 30 minute calls are not doing justice to seeing them in person.

I feel the sense of nostalgia kicking in. After we graduate, we will not see each other as often, and that’s unfathomable right now as I haven’t seen them since March. When will be the next time we can see each other in person? No one knows.

After everything I’ve done in the past four years, like switching my major, taking incredibly difficult classes and staying up late in the TECH Center, it feels like it’s all inconsequential. My good grades, every Dean’s List email, the grant I’ve written and received, the posters I’ve presented, the events I’ve had as President of Spanish Club. It seems so insignificant looking back on all of it. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful I have somewhere to live. I’m thankful for my mom constantly feeding me and having tea with her every morning. I’m glad my family and friends are healthy, and I’m thankful to still be in school. 

But there just doesn’t feel like much to celebrate now.

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