I graduated from undergrad at the University of Florida last year, but emotionally I didn’t. As we all know, the spring of 2020 is when things began to take a turn for the worse with the coronavirus pandemic. I remember coming back from spring break and seeing my time at UF coming to an end. With the pandemic came social distancing, masks, and other preventative measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. All big events were canceled, including my graduation ceremony.
It was really a blow for me. I really thought that people would come to their senses and do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19, and my graduation ceremony would happen as planned. I was constantly watching my email for any updates about graduation. Eventually, news came that it would be delayed to August and then rescheduled indefinitely. It was nerve-wracking, but I was determined to have my graduation.
Some people might think it’s ridiculous to go back for graduation when you’ve already moved on. But that’s the thing — I never really moved on.
Graduation had a lot of meaning to me. It represented the end of a monumental chapter of my life. It meant all the troubles I underwent in undergrad were not in vain. It validated the work my immigrant parents did for me so that I could earn a degree and have a great life. I wanted to do this for myself and my family, to bring pride and a sense of accomplishment.
The thing with things ending abruptly is that it leaves that chapter feeling incomplete. I really felt cheated and like my world is crumbling around me. If you look at my author profile, I have multiple articles about my experience with graduating at the start of the pandemic. I had so much to say because I was hurt, but the fact it was canceled for a good reason makes it a little better. My undergrad experience really shaped who I am as a person, and I just wanted that one meaningful moment of walking across the stage.
It’s really awkward now because I’m a full-fledged Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University. I started a new chapter without really finishing the last page of the previous one. I acknowledge that some people choose not to walk for whatever reason they have, and that’s completely valid. For me, I love the ceremony of it all, and it’s the ending of that chapter that I want. I just want to finally walk the stage and have my own memories of it.
I’m going to walk the stage at my makeup graduation and have the moment I’ve been yearning for. It’s my ending, and this is how I want to do it. Plus, I can say I graduated later than the current year’s graduating class, which is pretty cool.