Just a short few weeks ago, senior year was in full swing. Myself and my peers all across the country were making plans for our last two months of school, two months of memories with friends to last a lifetime. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, our year got upended. One by one, schools began announcing a shift to online classes, and many went as far as extending that through the end of the semester and telling students to move out of their dorms.
For us in the Class of 2020, this didn’t only mean the end of our senior year; it meant the end of our college years as we knew them. In almost the blink of an eye, we went from living out our senior year surrounded by friends on campus to spending most of our days attending class virtually from our homes while practicing social distancing. Student org events we’ve been planning for weeks, even months, are now no longer happening. Athletes, many of whom have been playing their sports since they learned how to walk, had their careers prematurely cut short. Music majors and other fine arts students have had recitals cancelled. And at many schools, graduation festivities are now on hold for months at the very least.
These are moments that are nearly impossible to make up for.
During this time, we’ve all probably had special moments either postponed or cancelled entirely, and it’s human nature to be upset about that. But in the days since my college announced that our commencement will take place in May 2021–over a year from now–myself and many of my fellow seniors have heard a chorus of people telling us that we shouldn’t complain because we’re in a pandemic, or giving us a general reminder that other people are less fortunate than we are, as if we didn’t already realize that. I’ve heard that countless times since this began, and it doesn’t make myself or many of my peers feel any better.
There’s a big difference between showing solidarity with those less fortunate than us, and using that to dismiss the frustration that myself and my peers feel about having the biggest day of our life up to this point postponed an entire year. Don’t get me wrong–all of us should be doing our part to help others affected by COVID-19, but we can do that while still expressing a sense of grief about our special moments being put on hold or even cancelled entirely.
And when we do vent, we deserve to have that validated.
This is where the “V” in V-A-R comes into play; instead of saying, “Well, other people have it worse than you,” you could say something like,“You’re allowed to be frustrated about that,” or “I’m sorry things worked out this way.” Any sentence that starts with “At least…” has the opposite effect of validation. I’ve heard that so many times these past couple weeks that it’s hard to not internalize it and think that we shouldn’t be dwelling on something like my college graduation at a time where there are larger issues at hand.
But the bottom line is, we’re allowed to be upset about this. No matter what anyone else may say, us seniors in the Class of 2020 deserve to celebrate our accomplishments just like every class before us has done.
While those plans remain uncertain for many schools and pushed into the future for others, know that this doesn’t diminish our accomplishments one bit. In the meantime, however, you’re allowed to vent. You’re allowed to feel like you were robbed of a special moment. There’s no pressure to “make the best of it” quite yet, as there are no easy solutions to any of this. When that day finally does come, nothing will feel better.