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The Real Reason I'm Upset My Graduation Is Canceled Because of COVID-19

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It’s no secret the new-to-humans coronavirus (COVID-19), which affects your lungs and respiratory system, has impacted us globally. From music festivals to companies to schools, it seems like almost everything has been canceled, postponed or moved online. The same is true for universities.

As you might imagine, being a senior in college right now is… tough. Goodbyes have been forced too soon, traditions will be missed and there are “lasts” we will never experience. But the biggest loss for many college kids and their loved ones are the graduation cancelations. I find many of us struggling to allow ourselves to grieve these losses as they feel overshadowed by the larger problems COVID-19 is bringing. I know we are allowed to feel whatever we feel, to grieve and feel sad, even if there are bigger things going on around us, but I still feel guilty bringing it up.

That being said, I do want to address why I am upset graduation is being cancelled… because it’s not for the reason you probably think (though that reason is totally valid, too). To be completely honest, I really don’t care much about walking across a stage and shaking my president’s hand — I was originally going to graduation more so for my family than for me anyways. I am not particularly upset I won’t be taking graduation photos, and if anything, at least I’m saving money by not having to buy a cap and gown, right?

I’m not sad graduation is canceled because I want to solidify and celebrate my academic achievements (though there is absolutely nothing wrong with that). I’m sad graduation is canceled because I want to solidify and celebrate my personal achievements.

I’m sad graduation is canceled because, the truth is, I never expected to be alive to make it this far. And if I’m being completely honest, I absolutely should not be alive to graduate — it is a miracle I am.

At 13, I never expected to make it to high school. Through every year of high school, I absolutely never expected to graduate. Through severe depression and anxiety, my struggles with self-harm, suicide attempts and living in an extremely toxic household, it is a miracle I made it to college. College was always a far-off dream to me during those years. I’d dream of moving out, finally away from my parents, thriving academically and just starting over.

That’s not exactly how it worked out, though. My anxiety heightened into a panic disorder my freshman year. My self-harm reached its peak my sophomore and junior years. I relied far too heavily on alcohol for a period of a time. I developed an eating disorder. And I attempted suicide twice — once during my sophomore year and once the summer after.

I should not be alive to graduate college, and I never saw myself making it this far. My 13-year-old self definitely never imagined I would ever make it here. I don’t think she even wanted to. Heck, especially this week, I have not even wanted to be alive to stick it out for just a couple more months. But, I’m still here. I’m still showing up. Through eight years of fighting constant suicidal thoughts, and despite giving into them multiple times, I’m somehow still here.

So yes, part of me is sad COVID-19 has taken away my college graduation. I never dreamed of being alive to walk across that stage, and even if I am, I won’t be able to now. I never dreamed of myself in a cap and gown standing outside my university. And I never will. I’ll never have a picture to look back on to say, “I made it.” It probably seems like a small (and maybe trivial) thing to many, but it’s disheartening to me. It hurts, and it’s allowed to hurt.

But I know, picture or not, ceremony or not, I fought like hell to make it to the final stretch of my senior year. There are so many people I could not have done it without, and while I wish I could celebrate with them, I understand why I can’t. This situation sucks, but I’m so thankful for everyone who has been with me every step of the way. And that’s something COVID-19 will never be able to take away.

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GettyImages photo via nirat

Originally published: March 23, 2020
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