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To the Class of 2020, From Someone Who Also Missed Their Graduation

Dear Class of 2020,

I see you.

I know your graduation gowns are hanging in a closet, awaiting an anticipated moment that will no longer arrive in conventional form.

I know you received acceptance letters, internships and job offers from the confines of your home, unable to celebrate in person with the people who helped you reach these pivotal moments.

I know you are living in deep grief from the losses inflicted by the pandemic sweeping our nation, during a senior year that would’ve traditionally concluded in collective celebrations.

I see you and I hear you in these ambiguous moments of forced choices because I, too, missed my graduation.

But the rest of my graduating class did not.

I missed my graduation when I became too ill to finish my education, when my temporary medical leave of absence became a permanent withdrawal. My life stopped in 2012, while the rest of the world’s kept spinning. I was alone in my grief, alone in my fear and alone in my loss.

From the tile of the bathroom floor in 2018, an old friend picked up the phone to quietly distract me from another night of my body failing. After years of wondering, I finally mustered the courage to ask about the graduation I had missed while I was occupied with saving my own life. He had been our commencement speaker.

He replied, “It was a really special moment. And also, it was simply just another moment.”

I realized then, I too, had my moment.

I watched the livestream of our graduation in 2016 while I got ready for my own celebration: a “pity party.” A play on words for a day I knew would be challenging. A way to celebrate what I still had left. I had lived through four years of ambiguous loss. I knew I also deserved a moment, even if I hadn’t graduated from college; even if I had never “gotten better.”

While I straightened what was left of my hair that spring morning, I watched my friend give his commencement speech. He gave an incredible speech. I would’ve given a good one, too.

I put on the white dress I bought for this moment, the one I would’ve worn to our graduation, and gingerly made my way outside to my party, to my moment.

Dear Class of 2020: Claim your moment.

Take the graduation gown off of the hanger, or don’t. Throw a graduation party, or don’t. Throw an anti-grad party, throw a pity party or throw a hissy fit.

Just throw something.

We may be alone in these moments, but this time, we are alone together. You have earned this moment, class of 2020. Take your moment back, because you are still here, and that will always be worth celebrating… even from six feet apart.

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Unsplash image by Vasily Koloda