I originally had a completely different letter that I was going to write to you, but just like pretty much everything else in the world right now, COVID-19 took my plans, chewed them up and spit them out.
I’m writing this to you two days after the University of Nebraska-Lincoln decided to cancel classes this week and move them online for the rest of the semester. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that decision to come right away. I thought classes would be canceled before and after spring break for about a week, but the rest of the semester? No.
For my fellow seniors graduating in May, I understand there are varying degrees of feelings toward the situation we are currently in. At this point in the semester, most feelings might be summed up as “Get me out of here,” so the news was more of a “Hallelujah” cry than anything else.
I can’t say I feel the same way.
While these last four years have been anything but easy, I’ve loved every second of my time at UNL. And as this semester kept marching on, a pit in my stomach grew and grew because I knew my time to say goodbye was fast approaching.
I just thought I had more time. I thought I had seven weeks to accept the fact that I will be done. After reading Chancellor Ronnie Green’s email to everyone last Thursday, the time I thought I had was simply … gone.
I finished my classes Thursday and walked to the parking garage. All I could do was look around and think, “I will never make this walk across campus again.” I had to give quick, meaningless in-person goodbyes to professors who gave me so much. I would be lying to you if I said all of this didn’t bring tears to my eyes.
Does that make me ridiculously sensitive and sentimental? Maybe. But that’s who I am. I’m not ashamed to admit that. This university and my experiences here have shaped me more than I ever could have imagined, so yeah, having my time cut off in such a bizarre way makes me extremely emotional.
If you’re a senior, you may or may not be rolling your eyes at this point, but if you’re a senior who feels the same way that I do, I want you to know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t care what anyone else tells you –– you are not alone in what you’re feeling.
You might have hoped your time here would come to a neat little end and this chapter of life would be tied up into a nice little bow after the commencement ceremony on May 9.
My mom was telling me about a co-worker who graduated from UNL in 2013, the same year the Bob Devaney Sports Center and longtime commencement site underwent renovations. Due to the renovations, Memorial Stadium was set to hold its first-ever graduation ceremony. But cold temperatures and rain forced the ceremony to be canceled, and graduates had to pick up their diplomas elsewhere.
She told me something along the lines of, “This won’t be the first time graduation was canceled,” in an effort to make me feel better. While I didn’t want to hear her at first, I kept thinking about it. That unfortunate situation was just a blip in her co-worker’s life. And it’s kind of cliche, but life does indeed go on.
Maybe you don’t want to hear it or do it, but seniors, relish all the moments and memories it took to get to this point. We are stronger because of these experiences. We need to dig deep and find that strength to finish this semester — just like we have for the last three years.
If this whole situation has you feeling sad, then feel sad. I know I am. But take solace in the fact that life is unexpected and will rarely go how we want it to, and really, you can’t ask for more perfect practice than the situation we are currently in.
Despite the temporary bouts of chaos and things unplanned, life is beautiful. And seniors, we are right on the cusp of the beginning of ours.