My alarm sounded promptly at 8 a.m.; I sprang out of bed and put on my favorite shirt and rushed out of the door. Walking around campus for the first time finally started the graduation countdown.
Semester after semester the end got closer even though it sometimes didn’t feel like it.
Finally, January 2020 came and I knew that in a few short months I would have my degree. But if you’re reading this now, you know that it took one poorly cooked bat to ruin my final semester.
There’s so much I never got to do during those final months as an underclassman, and as I sit here staring at this piece of paper I’ve worked so hard for, it’s finally time to say goodbye to the senior year I never got.
As COVID-19 began to shut down the world I never thought that my undergraduate career would end this way. They say there are five stages of grief and I definitely cycled through them during the final months of school.
Shock: I sat on the kitchen table in my apartment, scrolling through social media, sharing memes and laughing uncontrollably with my roommates. It seemed that even as the world crashed down around us, we were safe in our bubble of the Midwest.
And then I got the email.
A professor of mine attended an event where one of the other guests tested positive. I looked up at my roommates and my chest tightened. The laughter subsided as fear crept into the room. “It’s here.”
Denial: It was the illusion of safety that led me into the stage of denial. Corona just couldn’t be in our sweet little college town. It must’ve been a hoax, and so we went back to laughing. The soft pillows and blankets covering the couches felt like a mother’s hug after a long day. We were safe and warm. After all, I hadn’t worked through four long years of school for my final semester to end like this. It just wouldn’t happen this way.
Bargaining: meme after meme, TikTok after TikTok, an idea popped into my head. If the whole world went on lockdown, I wanted to be locked in with my significant other. Snacks, movies, jokes and being with the one I loved sounded like 2020 wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Staying stuck at home didn’t sound ideal at first until I remembered that I didn’t live at home, but rather with my friends. Days filled with coffee, Just Dance and crafts didn’t sound terrible. Plus, once our little ball of fluff saw me enter the room, I became surrounded with kisses and tail wags. Maybe, just maybe, this wouldn’t be so bad.
Guilt: The first day of online Zoom classes hit harder than a Mac truck. Awkwardly getting glimpses of my peers’ lives outside of the classroom (and my constant day-dreaming) lead to some deep thinking in that first 50 min Zoom lecture.
While no one likes to admit they’d skip classes in person to go get coffee, it happens. Yet sitting there as my professor droned on and on about how the world transitioned, I felt a twinge of something deep in my gut.
I should have gone to class more.
Skipping to grab coffee with a friend or catch up on late assignments felt fun at the moment, but what I wouldn’t give to be crammed back in a classroom and listen to this professor in person. My heart hung low in my chest, I actually missed going to class.
Anger: As “The Office” theme song blared through my laptop speakers my best friend’s face appeared on the screen and I answered. “I need to rant!” she screamed. As she went on about coworkers and roommates, the anger hiding in my own heart came out. “The world’s in turmoil over someone undercooking their dinner!” I snapped. The line got quiet. “What?” Finally, the tears had come. Just like Niagara Falls, the words fell out of my mouth. I wouldn’t get the graduation I worked so hard for, I would lose my job as all sporting events came to a halt, the list went on and on. I laid on my bed as I mourned the death of my last semester.
Depression: Hours of tears and ranting sessions later I realized what really hurt. The pain of not having a graduation ceremony ended and a new pain set in. Due to quarantine, the late-night Taco Bell runs or Pokemon Go dates were going to end. Those little moments that pass you by so many times unnoticed suddenly became noticed. I couldn’t turn the clock back. The fun spring semester antics were over before they got a chance to begin.
Acceptance: As many of us know you can only clean your room so many times before you get lost in thinking. I know that there’s nothing in my power I could’ve done to change the way 2020’s gone so far. I’ve got to accept that the missed coffees, classroom discussions and friend dates are gone forever. With every Facetime and Zoom call with the friends, I’ve realized one thing: even though the semester didn’t end how I’d pictured, it still ended with some amazing friends.