On March 13, 2020, I couldn’t have imagined what the next 365 days would hold.
A year ago today, I thought we would be back to “normal” by the time school started, and there was no way I’d be missing out on an in-person graduation.
Now, if you offered me an in-person graduation, I don’t think I would even consider it.
Last week, I went to the University Center for our graduation fair to pick up my diploma sleeve and a cap and gown for photos. All to watch my graduation on YouTube. I picked up my cords and bought myself an alumni sticker and sweatshirt, as if I needed another to add to my Ferris collection.
There was a strange dissonance between picking up graduation regalia like it was any other year, only to wear it in our living room with my family. It’s a weird contrast to hear that a friend’s college graduation in Missouri is going with an in-person ceremony when we’ve assumed since the fall we wouldn’t have a chance.
It’s extraordinary how much your perspective can change in a year. Think back to your mindset a year ago; do you even recognize the way you were thinking? I truly had no idea what to expect when then precautionary lockdowns were being enforced; I did not expect it to take so many lives, so many experiences and life events until now.
I went from being one of the most extroverted people of my friends to an introverted homebody. I feel like I have been working round the clock all school year during a pandemic. Like many people I know, I’m exhausted.
Our lives have been inextricably shifted in a significant way this past year. Our entire way of living changed, our social interactions changed and, consequently, so have our perspectives. It’s sometimes difficult to imagine what it was like to live without thinking about how many times I wash my hands, how many masks I have washed and how many people I see in a week.
I feel like we are all wondering ‘when things will go fully back to normal?’ Not to get too far into existential dread, but what even is the definition of normal now? At this point, the way we live now has gone on for so long, it qualifies as normal. The real question is, how much will our perception of “normal” shift as more and more people are vaccinated? I’m not sure it will ever get back to what I perceived to be normal before COVID-19.
But I’ll still dress up and take grad photos at the place I’ve called home for the last four years and in the office that I’ll always think of as the start of my career in journalism. I’ll still flip my tassel as I watch my name get called on a live YouTube stream. I’ll still celebrate this milestone in my life as best as I can.
My tassel and diploma sleeve will always symbolize so much more than a degree. They will serve as reminders of this year, along with all of its unique struggles and accomplishments.
A degree is still a degree, even if it’s being presented from another city on YouTube.