I’m a senior at Georgetown University, or at least, I was. I guess, I still am for a little under a month more, but somehow, it feels like the chapter has already been closed. It’s currently the last full week of class and I always imagined that this would one of my most bittersweet moments. I imagined being a little scared that 18 years of education was finally ending, a little sad about leaving the place that I am so proud to call home, and really excited about everything that was to come. As you can imagine, that’s not how things actually look.
Just over a month ago, I would have thought my current mind state unimaginable. I sobbed as my car pulled away from Georgetown’s front gates and I took one last look at the place that I love with my entire being. I knew I’d be back, but I also knew it would never be the same again. Never again would my entire life be contained within those gates, though it would always be home. When I arrived home, I broke down again as I saw my graduation robe hanging on my closet door, a painful reminder of the finale I felt was snatched from me. For days, I found myself staring at walls and breaking down into tears over the parts of my life that I would never have and never get back. Then, I started to put myself back together– I started to do hobbies, I started to make weekly Zoom and FaceTime plans, I tried to make the best of what I had.
Then, April 4 hit. For the last 14 months, I had been the outreach chair for a gala that was supposed to be on April 4, but had now been postponed to an unannounced date. My work with this gala is one of my proudest achievements in college, but this pride only made its absence hurt more. I spent the day feeling like I was drowning in my own sadness. I was angry at myself for my own sadness– here in my home state, people are grieving daily for their lost loved ones and I was crying over not being able to put on a pretty dress and go to a fancy party. Yet, some part of me did believe my grief was valid– I had worked hard and now, while I would be able to eventually see the event come to life, it would no longer be an event in which I had ownership over. It would not be mine.
That’s when it hit me. The grief I had been experiencing over college ending and every missed event came down to that: it would not be mine anymore. College wouldn’t be my life anymore. Georgetown wouldn’t be my place anymore. The Tombs wouldn’t be my neighborhood bar. My campus house wouldn’t be mine anymore. In a split second, it was all gone and in this crazy time we are living in, I felt like I never knew what the world around me would look like when I woke up. I felt like I was losing the very things I held onto for stability: the things I knew that were mine. Without the institutions and places and physical events to grab onto, life was disorienting, especially in the midst of a pandemic where I fear even going to the grocery store. Yet this night when I cried and the world felt like it was spinning too fast, I realized I still had so much I was holding onto as my own: I have my amazing and caring family, I have my friends from all parts of my life that lift me up, I have my years of education, I have my memories that could last me a lifetime, I have my faith, and I am blessed to say I have so many communities coming together right now.
Gratitude carried me out of the dark. And in the light, I could finally truly see the world around me, the world that I used my own sadness to hide from. I was afraid that if I stopped thinking about myself, I would see a world so decimated by this virus that hope was gone and light was rapidly fading. It was easy to believe this fear in this time of isolation: we cannot see anyone outside of our households, we must cover our faces now with masks when we go outside, and it feels like people have been reduced to numbers in the statistics given during daily briefings. Fear is fair in this time, but when I looked out, I saw so much hope. I saw so many good people doing great, extraordinary acts everywhere I looked from people organizing fundraisers to aid those in need to my neighbors coming together for a drive-by thank you salute daily at our local hospital to those using whatever talents, skills, or abilities they had to try to bring joy into people’s lives. I even think to the small act of receiving a simple text from a friend saying hello and staying connected during this time and I see hope and grace in them.
I have found that when you allow yourself to see hope, you don’t end up brought back in by the sadness. The sadness tricks you, it makes you think that everything is lost, but when you look up, you realize the sadness was lying to you the whole time. Things are so so far from perfect right now, but there is still good to be found. And while I may still wish I got to have all the milestone events that accompany the end of one’s college career, I’m just grateful that I got to be part of so much good and that I get to walk away from this university having gained so much. I’m grateful that my family, my friends, and myself continue to be healthy and that we are blessed with wonderful people all around us.
I want to end this with some of Kate Tempest’s words, for I think she describes my feelings and this moment best:
“Even when I’m weak and I’m breaking,
I’ll stand weeping at the train station
‘Cause I can see your faces
There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces.”
All I’ve got to say has already been said
I mean, you heard it from yourself
When you were lying in your bed and couldn’t sleep
Thinking couldn’t we be doing this