So this is it. This is how it ends, eh? Not with a bang, but with a whimper. A video call, a mailed diploma, see you at homecoming, maybe?
It was difficult for me to truly accept this at first. Once I realized all the missed connections, experiences, and goodbyes, it hit me like a truck. Our college experience was over. Could it really be? I don’t think I ever actually imagined what the end of time at Penn would feel like. Mostly, there is just the terrifying anticlimax of essentially being on your own from here on out. No more weekly club meetings, seeing your friends on locust, late-night hangouts, formals, pregames, parties… etc. Accepting this is tough, but moving on is important. Moving on from Penn means leaving the Penn bubble, for good this time. That is sad and scary, but also exciting and hopeful.
Life during the coronavirus sucks. I don’t think it really hit me until early April, after about a month of social distancing, just how much we had lost. I suddenly felt deeply alone. Never again would my social life come so easily or would I have the chance to meet so many people in similar circumstances to me.
But at the same time, you must admit, this is kind of liberating. After almost four years of never-ending opportunities, responsibilities, social engagements, and stress, we are suddenly left with... nothing. For the first time, there is absolutely no chance to have FOMO, because anything you are missing out on probably shouldn’t be happening anyway. Feeling isolated sucks, but it is perhaps the first and last time in our lives where we have so much unstructured free time to just be ourselves.
What I have found myself missing above all is community. Penn gave me many communities, and I deeply treasured the connection and support I found in them.
Class of 2020, we are not graduating into a bright future. The COVID-19 crisis will almost certainly wreck the economy, leaving millions to grasp at the waning American social safety net. Climate change looms over our adulthoods. It seems unlikely we will see the kind of serious action necessary to stop some of the worst effects from whoever occupies the White House next year. To me and many other young, progressive-minded students who placed our hopes in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, his loss feels like a betrayal of our futures by the older generations.
The only way out is together. Nothing has proven this better than the COVID-19 pandemic. In times of mass crisis, community action for the greater good is the solution.
So, fellow members of the Class of 2020, even though we will most likely not see each other in person until 2021, I ask that we graduate together, as a community of young people ready to take on this chaotic new world, not merely as individuals receiving a rubber stamp of academic credentials. Solidarity is not just our path out of this crisis but the way to build a better future.
TYLER LARKWORTHY is 2020 Engineering graduate from McLean, Va. who studied Computer Science. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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