What it feels like to graduate from college in a pandemic

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Photo by Kay Lau on Unsplash

We used to play this game in elementary school gym class called “stuck in the mud.” It was like a game of tag, but if you were tagged, you had to stop running and stand in place — stuck in the mud. In order to get unstuck, someone had to crawl between your legs, and only then were you free to run around again.

That is how I feel at the moment.

Stuck. And there’s nothing I can do about it but stand around and wait.

Today I graduated from college. I turned in my last online final, which means that I officially completed my bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies. This is an accomplishment that I have been planning for and working toward since I was an awkward, brace-faced high schooler.

This is the part where you move on to the next chapter of life. After 22 years of schooling, this is the time when you finally begin the life you’ve been learning everything for.

But I am stuck. Unable to move forward and find a job or an apartment of my own — unable to start my new life. Unable to close out my college experience. Stuck.

I wrote a piece for my school newspaper on being a senior in the middle of all this, but nothing compares to the feeling I have now.

I know I am done with a huge accomplishment, a degree I poured years of work into, but I am unable to celebrate — unable to walk at a commencement ceremony, beaming with cords around my neck and my parents cheering me on from the audience. Unable to throw a party that doesn’t take place in separate cars. Without a cap and gown, I feel like an imposter.

I’m unable to go back and grasp at the ending-college experiences that I was robbed of — unable to pick up my cap and gown from the bookstore and try it on with my friends, unable to shake my professors’ hands and thank them for the meaningful things they have taught me.

But I am also unable to move forward with my life and put my degree to use. Many companies have instituted hiring freezes, others might not even make it through to the end and still be around when the smoke clears. Even still, in-person interviews and training are impossible. And with no idea of where I could end up, I’m unable to make any plans — unable to start looking at cars or apartments or apartment decorations with no idea of where I might be by Christmas. My precious plans — which gave me a sense of security while earning a degree in such a volatile field — have been thrown out the window.

I’m just stuck. Stuck waiting on a couch until the world opens up again. Stuck making sorry attempts at reading and being unable to focus on anything other than the overwhelming sense of confusion that consumes me.

As I have ended each of the articles I’ve written on this: if you’re in my boat, you’re not alone. You are not the only one who aches for a sense of finality and closure or misses your college days. This is hard and confusing — how do you tell yourself it’s the end when it doesn’t feel or look like the end you’ve been preparing for all your life?

This is not the ending I ever foresaw, and it’s been impossible for me to wrap my brain around it. I’m stuck. Stuck with a dying laptop on my desk because is it even worth buying a new one if I won’t have a job to need it for? Stuck across the hall from the bedroom I grew up in, desperately wanting to move on and start my adult life. But I am unable.

Stuck.

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