As I sit here at my computer, wearing one of my favorite t-shirts that sports the words "BALL STATE UNIVERSITY" in large letters, I try to fight back the tears and try to gather the letters to put together some words, any words, to somehow coherently express how I feel.
Commencement has been canceled.
I think about when I applied to graduate. I think about when I received my cap and gown via mail and got to try it on for the first time. I think about how I took my cap, gown, and tassel out of the package, and proudly put it on immediately. I made my fiance take a picture of me in it, with my arms spread wide and the loose black gown hanging on me, surrounding me in the overwhelming feeling of success. I took off the gown and hung it in the back of my closet, gingerly placing the cap and tassel in a bag with it, where I would leave it to anxiously wait until I would put it on again for graduation day.
But now that day is never coming.
I no longer have to 'keep an eye out' for the perfect graduation dress. I don't have to think about how I'm going to decorate my cap with my best friend, whom I had met during the first year at Ball State University. I don't have to think about how early I'm going to wake up that day, graduation day, to make sure my hair is perfect or that my makeup is done just right.
I don't have to think about how I'm going to walk across the stage. I don't get to dream about walking across the stage all the while thinking to myself "I DID IT!" when my classes are kicking me in the teeth and I feel like I'm never going to make it.
I don't get to flip on the closet light early in the morning while I'm getting ready for work and see my cap and gown waiting for me in the back of my closet, knowing that with each day, I get a little closer to earning my degree and celebrate the fact that I finished something I've worked so hard on for so long.
I don't get to think about it anymore.
I feel that it is important to say that, while I understand why this had to happen, I cannot help but be sad about it. I do understand why this had to happen, and how important it is to keep others safe while we fight to keep COVID-19 from spreading. I do not wish for others to get sick or perish so that I may be allowed some sort of celebration while so many are perishing. I know that this situation is much bigger than myself, and that really, it is not about me. The Coronavirus has wreaked havoc through so many lives and taken many more.
If I only have to let go of my commencement ceremony but am still able to hold my loved ones close, then I consider myself lucky.
With that being said, I do feel that it is important to recognize these feelings of sadness. I think it is healthy to acknowledge these feelings and let them be. I think it's normal and natural to be upset about all of this (not having commencement, etc). And I'm trying really hard to just allow myself to be sad about this because this is something that means a lot to me... I've looked forward to graduation for as long as I can remember, and I'm sure it is the same for countless others.
And despite this being taken away (with good reason, mind you), there is still much to be joyful for. Because in the end, I still did it. I got through the classes and hardships. I will still be a graduate. I still earned my degree. I can still say, "I DID IT!"
And so did you, Class of 2020.
I will still celebrate, just in a different way this time. This in no way lessens my accomplishments, or yours Class of 2020, and there is still much to be grateful for. I know that I have a lot of lucky stars to thank.
And heck, I might even still decorate my cap. After all, I'm graduating from college!