Yesterday our oldest daughter was supposed to graduate from High School. The ceremony was going to be at the auditorium of a somewhat nearby college because there are over 500 seniors in her class and with parents and friends attending, there is no place that large at her school to hold everyone.
There were going to be pictures; lots and lots of pictures. We were going to yell something to her when her name was called, in absolute defiance of the principal’s warning not to do so. I was going to hug her, give her a couple short pieces of advice and tell her how immensely proud I am of her. Of course, I was going to cry.
She was going to see her friends, most of whom she would probably never see again. She was going to smile for hours.
Then, tomorrow, we were going to have a huge party at our house. We were expecting over 100 people to be here. We organized the garage, painted it and put epoxy on the floor to make the garage a much nicer venue for a big bash. There would have been laughter, music, games and lots and lots of food.
The pandemic changed all of this.
Our daughter is still graduating. She will get her diploma, but in the mail a few weeks from now. Her school will have some kind of virtual graduation ceremony in a month and our neighborhood had a quarantine parade to honor all of the seniors in the neighborhood last night. We will absolutely have the big bash we planned to celebrate her graduation, we just don’t know when that will be.
The accomplishment of graduating is more important than the celebration of it. Still, she, her classmates and all of the class of 2020 feel a bit cheated by not having the graduation ceremony and party they earned. Those rituals are a key part of acknowledging the entry into a new stage of life. They know there is nothing they can do about it but it doesn’t make them feel any less disappointment.
So much of our lives have been disrupted or put on hold because of the novel coronavirus. It has made millions sick and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. It has closed businesses, laid off millions, increased hunger, ended travel and delayed celebrations. Our vulnerability as humans have been laid bare.
But so has our resilience. People are adapting to school and work at home, safety precautions at businesses, feeding the hungry and finding ways to have celebrations of birthdays, graduations and weddings.
The class of 2020 is learning a very valuable lesson in all of this. They are learning to adapt to quickly changing circumstances. Living through this, I believe, will help them in solving the complex problems of the future because they have learned many out-of-the-box ways to tackle challenges.
Our daughter, for example, had a “prom” for her and her boyfriend. Instead of hanging out with her friends, she has Facetimed them or gone on a bike ride with them. If the college she is planning to attend in the fall (University of Iowa) goes to online only or some hybrid model of in person and online, she has thought about what she might do such as attend community college for a semester instead. She is cautiously considering to go back to work at the restaurant she was working at before the pandemic.
I am so proud of her. She is smart, mature and happy. I have no concerns about her readiness to move on to the next stage of her life. I know she is going to crush it. It will be a lot quieter here when she goes off to college and we will all miss her terribly but we know she is ready and we know it’s time for her to follow her own path.
Father of 4, Husband, Catholic, Historian, published author, LGBTQ+ ally, runner, sports fan (he/him/his)