Today is the Day I Never Thought Would Come
Do you ever have those days that are so far ahead in the future that you thought they would never come?
Yeah, that day is today for me.
I remember planning for the future in early middle school and thinking how far away high school and college graduation were at the time. 2016? Lightyears away. 2020? An eternity.
Well, today marks “eternity,” I guess.
All of high school went by like a flash, and it’s extremely hard to believe I’ve already gone through four years of college since I walked across the stage in Bandstand Park.
Those years of college have been a rollercoaster ride to put it nicely, though. I'm sure a lot of college kids can relate to some of my lows: four major changes, a few terrible mistakes, numerous identity crises, constant financial struggles and an uphill battle to lift my GPA after I failed a couple classes early freshman year. I stopped exercising, ate poorly and often turned to cigarette smoking and excessive drinking to deal with the stress.
On many occasions during the last four years, I found myself wondering if I made the right choices and whether I would graduate on time, if at all.
Despite that, the lowest of lows led to the highest of highs. I found a purposeful career choice, learned from my mistakes, did a lot of self-care and soul-searching, regained a hold of my finances and managed to graduate with a GPA above 3.0. I am back on an exercise and diet regimen, have not touched a cigarette in five months and learned how to appreciate and enjoy alcohol responsibly rather than drown my sorrows in it.
Better yet, among those highs I met some of the coolest people, had the best group of friends and roommates I could ask for and fell in love with a kind, intelligent gal who makes me laugh and is always there when I need her.
Despite the chaos, I feel happier now than I have in a long time.
Am I disappointed I cannot walk across the stage in the Bryce Jordan Center hungover and tired after partying and celebrating with my friends, roommates and girlfriend? Yes. Do I grieve for the lost opportunities these last couple months to make memories with those people whom I won’t see in person for a long time or maybe ever again? Very much so.
But am I a thousand times more concerned for the safety of everyone in the world at the moment and hopeful that if we do our best to protect each other and trust in our heroic medical personnel and scientists that we will get through this wretched pandemic, as well as whatever else 2020 is going to throw our way? Absolutely.
Needless to say, this social distancing thing has been its own rollercoaster ride, but these last couple months have reminded me of a realization I had a long time ago that helped lead to my degree in journalism:
Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is dangerous.
…let me say it louder for the people in the back…
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS. IGNORANCE IS DANGEROUS.
I want to say I know what happens next, but the harsh reality is I don’t. I have been actively seeking a job since last November, but the future in that regard still remains uncertain for now. I am celebrating this achievement today unemployed in my parent’s house - the absolute last situation I expected to be in upon getting my bachelor's degree.
What I do know is regardless of what happens in the future, I will continue to work hard, play harder, love unconditionally and never cease learning. Life is short yet meaningful, and absolutely nothing can be taken for granted.
Now, for the Odyssey-esque section of this piece…
To my former teachers, professors and bosses: Y’all are awesome and amazing, simply put. Especially in this last semester with the ~thrill~ of remote learning, we students have seen how devoted you all are to your work, and we will be forever grateful for the impact you have had on our education and professional development. I will miss you all very dearly and I hope we can reconnect at some point in the future.
To my family and friends outside of school: Words cannot express how grateful I am for your love and support. I have felt it both at my best and my worst, and there is no way I would have succeeded in earning this degree without all of you.
To the Penn State Class of 2021 and beyond: Embrace every second you have left at this school. Cherish every memory from tedious classwork rituals to ridiculous feats of fun with friends. And I sure as hell hope that what has happened to us graduating does not happen to you.
To my friends, colleagues and classmates in the Penn State Class of 2020: Each of our journeys getting to this point is drastically different. None of this ended the way we wanted it to, and I abhor the fact that we cannot celebrate it together in person. But if there is anything we can learn from this experience, it’s that we are a strong bunch and nothing can stop us from getting what we have worked so hard to achieve. Not even a stupid-ass pandemic.
We made it! We did it! We are!