They call it Commencement instead of graduation. I guess it’s based on this idea that the transition from college bubble to adult stratosphere is full of amazing possibilities.
I guess it is. I wanted to write a doozy of a column, extolling some lesson about transition and reminiscing about the journey we are about to take with the skills and experiences we have acquired at Tufts.
But part of me is angry. And sad. And unfeeling. And scared. Because it’s all ending. I don’t know how to feel about it. I didn’t come in with grandiose beliefs and expectations of what the college years would be. Or at least I didn’t think I did…
But of course I also didn’t think I’d come into it — this great (“prestigious”) American tradition — expecting to take part in some of the darkest moments of my life. The shame and sickness, the castigation and claustrophobia of a room not filled with string lights and Solo Cups but of empty pizza boxes and tattered sheets was not what I wanted in memory. Sadly, I spent much of my college career in my head, drowning.
I promised I would steer away from negative self-pity, but was the last few years nothing more than the time I weakly resisted the waves and exhaustedly coughed up water so that I could finally feel the sun? I’m at a place where I don’t envy the lives my peers seemed to thrive in as much as I used to. Still, how can I reflect on, process and reckon with four years that were, in many ways, excruciating and stagnant? How can I forgive myself, grieve my foibles and sins and mourn the person I thought I could be but never was?
Perhaps COVID-19 took away a lot of the anticipated joys from my senior year. Perhaps it took away relationships that would have flourished, adventures that would have revealed growth. But what it actually did for me was strip away life to its purest. Because outside of roommate drama, hastily-written 2 a.m. essays, upperclassmen crushes and intimidating career fairs, college (Zoom University or not) reveals you. For the first time, you’re away from your parents, your hometown and your rules, notions and safeguards. You must learn to love yourself because at the end of the day, your relationship to yourself matters more than anything else.
Hold on to your Tufts failures just as much as your successes because they taught you more. Remember your Medford heartbreaks because they are a reminder that you cared. Keep SEC sadness around because it’ll make you a little wiser, a little kinder and a little more grateful.
Of course, I’m proud of my accomplishments and appreciative of what Tufts has given me in knowledge and people. But I’ve also learned to be grateful for my struggles and my suffering because they gave me a unique perspective and capacity for empathy, and led me to write these words of reflection for this audience of one — me.
Here’s to the blood, sweat, tears and sanitizer of the COVID Class of 2021.