Thoughts from a 2020 Grad: Seven Reasons Why I have to Keep Going

By: Claire Grulick

The unexpected spread of COVID-19 has left behind a wake of uncertainty and panic, leaving no one unaffected. While businesses, families, and schools are trying to cope with the day-to-day changes, at every moment, lives are being impacted globally. There’s no routine; millions of Americans have lost their jobs. There’s also no regular home life; parents have become full-time caretakers, educators, and employees. With this severe lack of structure comes an abundance of stress—a unique strain of which is felt by the Class of 2020.

Graduation—this huge turning point in our lives—has seemingly disappeared and left high school and college seniors, including myself, with the feeling of nowhere to go. In an interview with NPR’s Patti Neighmond, Dr. Lynn Bufka notes that as unprecedented as this experience is for everyone, “it’s completely new for teens and young adults — and [we] don’t have the wealth of experiences that older individuals have with transitions” to help us cope. I’ve worked my entire life to get to this one point, this apex, that determines the rest of my life and career, only to have it taken away as I neared the finish line. Feeling robbed of this defining moment, I’ve found my frustration manifesting itself in a lack of motivation, and I’ve discovered similar feelings among friends and peers. But while this situation is difficult, giving up isn’t the answer.

Here are seven reasons why I have to keep going:

  1. My education has become a pillar of my identity. My passion for English literature and language has only grown at the College of Charleston, greatly shaping my future career aspirations. I’ve taken classes catered to my interests that also satisfied my degree’s requirements, allowing me to complete my four-year tour of the humanities and social sciences at the College as a more informed, well-rounded person. These are certainly signs of success that many of us have felt, and despite there being no official ceremony to signify their achievements, every 2020 graduate, regardless of age or major, should be proud of everything that they’ve accomplished thus far.
  2. I invested too much time. Depending on where one chooses to start their college experience, the average student spends 4 years broken into 8 semesters at 17 weeks per semester and 15-18 hours per week plus the [recommended] 2-3 hours of studying for each hour spent in class. Together, this comes to a grand total of 45 hours per week, 6,120 hours in all, invested into my degree.
  3. And effort. Those 6,120+ hours included all-nighters, countless flashcards, color-coding notes, office hours, study groups, YouTube crash courses, Quizlets, and pages and pages of anthologies. . .just to coast aimlessly the last two months? I don’t think so.
  4. I owe it to my instructors. All of them. Every instructor I’ve had has influenced my life in some way. My kindergarten teacher taught me how to write my name. My eighth-grade social studies teacher taught me how to write about current events. My AP statistics teacher helped reinforce that math is not for me. They all took their time in school, turned around, and dedicated it to mine.
  5. I owe it to myself. Even though right now this feels like the biggest event in my life, this will eventually be a very, very small part. I’ve laid so much groundwork to give myself opportunities in the future, and even though the ending of my college experience will never be how I expected it, I still have the rest of my life to make it what I want.
  6. My degree’s importance now will mean more later. Earning my degree and ending my college career strongly is vital to my future success. In this time of constant change, it’s important to source motivation from envisioning the future. Regardless of how life is unfolding currently, what really matter are the endless opportunities ahead that wouldn’t have otherwise been available.
  7. I simply have to finish. Everything that’s happening right now is unpredictable and unprecedented. I’ve come to peace with knowing that everything from here on out doesn’t have to be “The Best.” Uncertainty hangs thickly in the air, and every day brings a new modification to the plan. That being said, I’m going to perform at a level that I know I can look back on confidently, understanding that I gave everything I had until the very end.

My hope is that all seniors, and all students, can find solidarity in our uncertainty. Dr. Bufka reminds us that “changes in everyday life to limit the spread of disease may be hard, but ‘we’re in it together and we’re in it to benefit the larger community’”—we should remember this as we near our would-be graduation dates. Our back-breaking efforts towards our degrees still matter; our high school and college experiences, although cut short, still matter; and what matters above all else is how we choose to respond to this unfortunate turn of events. We should choose to carry ourselves with pride and dignity, knowing that in our sacrifices we are contributing to the greater good. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we won’t let anything, especially ourselves, get in the way of achieving our goals.

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