First Person: My college graduation during a pandemic

Sunday, May 15, was going to be a day to celebrate, a day to be giddy and a day to relax. Graduation.

I was supposed to be in that white sundress, with my nails done, pearly whites out smiling because it was going to be one of the happiest moments of my life. It’s almost like your wedding day. You plan the day, detail after detail, for months on end, hoping everything will be perfect. Yes, it may be a bit extreme, but I’m 22. When else can I go full graduate-zilla? I had been researching the perfect cliché brunch place to eat at after the ceremony for months. My parents had booked a hotel room. And I had been imagining the embarrassing sounds my family would make when my name was called. There was just one problem: graduation was cancelled.

A couple months back, when other colleges started canceling graduation because of COVID-19, I tried staying calm. I tried keeping my hopes up, thinking for some reason I would still get my day. But, I was not special. So, I had to suck it up. I still had to go to online school. I still had to order my cap and gown because you know my mom needs a picture of me in it, and I still had to job search. How was I supposed to tell future employers I had graduated without truly feeling closure from this part of my life? This was one of my biggest struggles.

My other struggle was, of course, when will I receive my diploma? Or even more important, when will I have my graduation party? And the gifts! This event would be the jackpot of gifts. My mom had started stressing me out about invitations and food. Add it to the list of a Jewish mother’s worries.

All that aside, there are more important things to worry about. Right now, our priority has got to be our health and being there for one another during this strange time. Along with all the rest who are celebrating birthdays, Passover and Mother’s Day over Zoom, us graduates will also eventually partake.

Yes, the bright side of this is that my graduation ceremony has been postponed to Oct. 10, five days before my birthday. Now, do I really want to come back to University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, after I have been so far removed, just to walk across the stage instead of celebrating my birthday in Chicago? The answer to that is yes, of course.

I need to do it for my school, for my parents and for myself. I worked so hard all four years of school to graduate with honors. I threw myself into everything I could freshman year, like Hillel Milwaukee, Chabad and dance teams. I am thankful for the memories I made and no matter how many times the graduation may get postponed, you know I will be there in that white sundress.