I truly thought I was okay today.
I knew I wasn’t going to walk across the stage on Saturday, May 16. I knew there weren’t going to be documentary screenings, the mass communication final capstone project, the night before even after dropping one documentary to start another midway through the semester and hours upon hours of work being put in. I knew there wasn’t anything anyone could do to change the situation at hand. I also knew this was the right call to keep people safe during these extraordinary times
But it hurts anyway.
What I didn’t know is how heartbroken I truly am. I didn’t know the last time I would see my colleagues would be two months ago. I didn’t know I wouldn’t get to be in my favorite classes again after spring break. I didn’t know how much I would miss getting to give each and every professor a personal thank you note for pushing, believing in and challenging me.
In negative circumstances, I tend to accidentally fall into over (unintentionally toxic) positivity to counter serious uncertainty and surrounding sadness for a variety of reasons but mostly because I feel selfish when I’m not the only one affected by things.
I hate that so many students worked so hard for this moment to have it disappear. I hate that so many people are sick and dying from a disease we don’t understand or know how to prevent/stop. I hate that my family won’t get to share this amazing experience with me.
Being a first-generation college student has meant more to me than almost anything else in my college career. I was getting to earn the degree my parents worked their whole lives to provide. I had to turn away so many opportunities to go on trips, spend time with and have fun together so I could say that we did this. I was in school for me, yes, but I was doing it so that my nieces and nephews could say they’ve seen someone come from their backgrounds and achieve something like this. I did it to show my sisters they can do it, too, if they want. I did it so people could see that even without footsteps to follow you can do something extraordinary.
Now, as contradictory as this sounds, I’m a shy person when it comes to attention. I love talking and interacting with people, but when it comes to attention solely on me, I shrink back and try to place the attention elsewhere. I’d rather spend time talking to someone about them rather than me. I love celebrating others’ accomplishments and highlighting their achievements rather than looking at my own. I always said I didn’t want to do documentary screenings, but I knew my colleagues were eager to show what we’ve worked so hard on, so it was fine with me. I did NOT want to walk that stage, but I knew it was important for my family, so I will willing to do it. I didn’t want to hear applause or have eyes on me, so as thoroughly as I didn’t want to, I would do it for for those who have supported me. They would get to see that I did this for their dreams. I did this for us… but I also did it for me, too.
So many tears out of frustration have been spilt over projects that took four times as long as necessary because I was trying to figure out software in the MCOM department. Hours have been spent planted in the library in one position trying to finish 10-page essays that were procrastinated on far too long. Many, probably dozens, of Einstein’s bagels have been eaten within minutes as I haul ass across campus to get to class before I hear the signature Dr. Sernoe “9:30, please” in polite reprimand for being late.
Yet, I wouldn’t trade any of it for a second. I wouldn’t trade the moved classrooms for construction on incredible multi-million dollar buildings that will help students for years to come. I loved seeing the massive progress on campus just in the four years of me being here. I’m proud of the way students, faculty and staff mourned together through numerous tragedies like the hurricanes that devastated the Caribbean and impacted our international students or the tragic death of Robert Grays who, to this day, reminds thousands to pursue dreams and life to the fullest.
One thing I have learned about being a Mustang is that this truly is a home for many. I’m grateful I grew up in Wichita Falls and finally got to experience the campus that people move thousands of miles to be a part of. I’m impressed at the marketing campaign from MSU Texas because it really became my university, and I hope others feel that sense of community, too.
It’s even more exciting to see people coming together over these hard times. Because everyone is in isolation, people are desperately trying to stay connected in whatever way they can. Families are having weekly FaceTime dates. Musicians are hosting virtual concerts. Heck, even former President Barack Obama is hosting a virtual commencement for 2020 graduates. While we are #PhysicallySeparate, we are #DigitallyTogether, and that reminder of the good of technology is just as evident as the potential negative uses.
I know things will be better. I know in the grand scheme of things, not getting to have a graduation ceremony isn’t a huge deal when we’re talking about spikes in COVID-19 cases when large groups gather. But right now, it stinks, and this is a bittersweet moment for millions internationally. Though social isolation is an omnipresent thing right now, it feels good to not be going through this alone.
To the class of 2020, we have succeeded despite the circumstances, and that definitely is something to celebrate… Even if it’s over FaceTime.