by Jasmine Ledesma
When it was time to graduate from high school I wanted it to end as soon as it began. The members of my class and their mothers--with cameras tied to their wrists and ribbons flailing--were packed in a building. The drone of the marching music and the sustained, familial applause was tiring to say the least. As I was handed my diploma--a piece of unnamed paper for show--I wanted to take my black gown off, run a hand through my orchestrated ringlets of hair and never step foot in that auditorium again. I didn’t care about tradition. Well, it’s been a few years since that night and for the millions of both high school and college students set to graduate this May, graduation is murky, unknown territory.
I had the opportunity to address these concerns with a couple of college seniors set to graduate within the next month. Mia, a senior at a college in New York, a state of which the pandemic has intensely affected, stated, “We're in the middle of a pandemic, a situation that no one our age, or our parents’ age for that matter, understand how to deal with or what the outcome will be. On top of that, it's a struggle figuring out "adult life" and what that will look like.”
As for what her school plans to do in the upcoming weeks, she said, “Our graduation ceremony has been cancelled or "postponed" as they have been teasing us with. There's not much to prep for (which is great considering I hate walking on any kind of stage). I've been in my undergrad career for five years now, and I definitely feel disappointed about not being able to celebrate the way I've seen so many of my friends before me do. I've worked extremely hard to get to where I am now, so it's a bit disappointing.” That disappointment rings true for most graduates who are leaving years of all nighters, relationships, spilled coffee and work behind them without so much as what they thought was a guarantee. Mia is rolling with the punches though. “I'm looking on the bright side! I get to enjoy this time with my family, write more than I would have during a "normal" semester, and read a lot.” Her future is a neon light. When asked about what awaits beyond this,“I've been accepted to an incredible MFA program at Sarah Lawrence that I'm really looking forward to. I'll be able to further my education while simultaneously mastering my writing and I can't wait for that.”
I also had the fortune of speaking with Maddy, a senior at the same college in New York who gave her thoughts on the situation at hand. Maddy stated that her feelings were similar to Mia’s in terms of not being able to mark her graduation in the way she was expecting to, “I've been working toward my degree for years, from community college to taking a semester off and finally ending up here to finish my degree. I feel disappointed, and really just sad that the graduation ceremony isn't happening. The school is still sending us our cap and gowns, which I'm not quite sure how I feel about.”
In a sense, receiving a cap and gown which you might not be able to use for a while, if at all, seems like a sick joke, though of course schools are doing what they can. Everybody is wandering in the dark. Nobody is sure of what they are supposed to be feeling for, or doing. Maddy went on to brightly say, “I'm starting a MA program at Belmont University in Nashville (yeehaw!) in the fall. Knowing that I'll have another graduation from that program to celebrate my entire collegiate experience is comforting!”
Like Maddy and Mia, students across the globe share that same frustration and concern over the lack of a proper graduation. However, it is for the best ultimately and more than likely, graduates will get their day in the sun when this is over. Until then, congratulations and stay safe!