Michaels: Discovering new ways to appreciate graduation after the pandemic

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Those who graduated high school in 2020 missed out on a lot, but that won't be the same this year. - Multimedia editor/ Drew Peltzman

The 2023-2024 school year is upon us and is especially meaningful. For Spring graduates, it has been roughly four years since COVID-19 shut down our lives, for many of us who started our senior year of college just one week ago. 

You may be thinking, “Great, another Covid article,” but I promise that’s not what this is. This is an appreciation for what was and what’s yet to come. When Covid struck, you likely were thrilled to be told that you would have two weeks off from school. I am sure many of us will always remember where we were when we first heard the news.

It truly is crazy to think that four years ago I was sitting at my high school’s state championship hockey game, joking about the email I received stating my spring break would be extended an extra week. Now, I am a senior in college, graduating in approximately 9 months. In some ways, it feels as though it has only been a few months since that time, and in other ways, it feels like it’s been a century. 

For those of us who were in our senior or junior year of high school, or maybe it was freshman year of college, Covid took a lot away from us and it’s important to think about. 

How many people didn’t get to walk in their high school graduation? Or maybe you got to walk, but your parents, friends, and family couldn’t be there. How many people didn’t get to go to prom or do all the fantastic things you’re supposed to get to do during the bridge between high school ending and college beginning? 

A huge part of life is learning to live with loss, an unfortunate and unavoidable factor of growing up. If you hadn’t experienced any significant loss by then, you certainly did when our lives shut down for much longer than those two initial weeks. 

Four years later, it is time to reflect on those losses and foster an appreciation for all we have overcome, who we have grown into, and what we have and will achieve. 

We lived through a historic event, something we will never forget. We may have lost potential memories, but we also gained a lot of unique ones in the process. Where prom and graduation were lost, many were able to enjoy more time with family or friends. And if not, whatever you did during the pandemic is in itself a unique memory.

Now because of these experiences we share in our own different ways, there are different appreciations for life we are able to have. With loss comes new perspectives and to have this is incredibly powerful. 

The dread we once felt about going to school has given way to excitement to sit in class and interact with our friends, peers, and colleagues sitting next to us. The joy of not having to wear a mask and the happiness in realizing those who are graduating this school year will get to have a real graduation. 

So, with the new year approaching, I ask for you to look at all you have been through and experienced – and not just from the heat of Covid, but in totality. The years we spend in college are supposed to be the most fun and crucial moments of experience and growth in life. Covid may have skewed some of those moments, and no matter what the experience may have been it is beneficial to reflect on and appreciate all that we have. 

To those who will be graduating in 2024, don’t take anything for granted. Everything we’ve learned through all the trials and tribulations in life, especially the past four years, has shaped us into who we are. And to anyone else, I hope you will do the same because the best thing we have in life is our memories because those experiences help us become who we are. Here is to a great and successful school year.

For comments/questions about this story, email the.whit.rowan@gmail.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline

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