“Because of the public health emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic, the University System of Georgia (USG) has informed USG institutions we will not be conducting graduation ceremonies this spring.”
I reread that sentence at least twenty times before tears blurred my vision. I knew there was a possibility of graduation being canceled or postponed due to COVID 19. I remained optimistic and held out hope that we would’ve been able to eliminate this virus. I know I know it is not easy to get rid of a pandemic, especially when there’s no vaccine or cure). I tried to prepare emotionally for the moment of officially getting the news. But, no. When I received this email on March 18 from our University President, I opened it with feelings reminiscent of the day I failed nursing school; anxious, expectant, steeling myself against bad news the best way I could. But that one line crushed me in a way I could never imagine.
I was home in Antigua on spring break with my family. I walked out of my bedroom and went to the gallery where my parents were sitting and with tears in my eyes, took a deep breath, and exhaled.
“I’m not going to get to walk, graduation is postponed,” I said, and the tears flowed down my face. I texted my boyfriend and my best friend the news, and I took time for myself to let out the tears I’ve held back during my studies.
This comes years after receiving my associate’s degree, years of working toward a goal, only to have the ending snuffed out. I’ve encountered stumbling blocks after stumbling blocks to finally turning them into stepping stones, only not to get to celebrate the end of a long journey. My goal is to make my parents proud, and they’ve supported me in ways beyond what I can explain. To know that they would not get to see me walk across the stage with honors broke my heart. My parents invested time and money, so this was going to be our special day. This commencement ceremony would have been the highlight of my journey thus far. I feel defeated knowing that I’m not going to be able to walk across that stage and receive my degree in front of my family, friends, and peers. As a public health student, I understand that this decision was made for the safety of every student, faculty, friends, and family. Other universities in the state of Georgia and beyond are all facing this predicament, but that does not mean I don’t get the opportunity to feel disappointed or sad.
A wise woman (my best friend Gerena) once told me, “it’s ok to feel your feelings, you have at least 24 hours to do so, and after that, it’s time to pick yourself up and work towards your goal.” That phrase has stuck with me to this day. I firmly believe in allowing myself to feel every emotion and to allow time to pass. This devastating news was no different. I was down for the count for at least a day or two. Thankfully I was in my home country and surrounded by my family and friends. My siblings did their best to cheer me up, we went hiking, had ice cream dates and of course went to the beach( fun fact: Antigua has 365 beaches). I began to gain clarity on my situation like I always do; I try to find a silver lining in every situation. I was still very disappointed about the graduation. However, after journaling, praying, and spending time with my loved ones, I decided to move on and focus on what is true.
Nothing happens before its time; I know there is a plan for my life that I cannot begin to fathom. The truth is I know my parents and my loved ones are incredibly proud of me, and not walking across a stage is going to change that. The love and support are deeper than I could ever ask for.
I know that I worked hard to complete this degree. This road I traveled was long and seemed never-ending at times, but throughout this journey, I was able to find my passion. I remember trying to navigate what I was going to do and decided to pursue a degree in Public Health. To this day, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Even in these uncertain times and this global pandemic, I’m even more confident to learn, grow, and to bring about change as a public health professional.
I’ve accepted the situation for what it is and chose to move on. I’m going to celebrate this accomplishment just like I would if graduation was going to happen. I’m going to pop those bottles (who am I kidding? I can barely drink lol). I’m going to celebrate my accomplishment. I worked long and hard for this, and nothing is going to stop me.
Today would have been my graduation day and I’m feeling a sense of pride to know that I completed a goal. Although my school only postponed our graduation until it’s safe to gather. I’ll be celebrating in my own way today. I’ll turn my tassel to the other side and look forward to what’s next.
If you’re reading this and your senior year has been affected, I want you to know this too: This untimely ending does not take anything away from the journey. You worked hard for this moment, keep moving forward and keep on evolving.
B.S. Public Health
Class of 2020
Magna Cum Laude