Graduation (or Lack Thereof) in the Time of COVID-19

My Admittedly Selfish Desire for Public Validation

  • Graphic Maria Chabelnik

Like thousands of other students at Concordia (and what I guesstimate to be several hundred thousand around the world), I’m presumably graduating with my bachelor’s degree this semester (cross your fingers for that last J-school grade!).

Instead of the normal June graduation ceremony, Concordia will be going for a “virtual celebration during the month of June,” whatever that means, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve seen people I know commenting on Twitter about how disappointed they are and that they’d be willing to wait a year to get a proper convocation along with next year’s graduates.

At first, I didn’t really think convocation was a big deal—for me, anyway—and I sort of still don’t.

Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about the whole pomp and circumstance of graduation in the first place. It wasn’t out of being too busy for it, or looking far into my future, or even because of current events, but, really, it was out of apathy.

During the lead-up to graduation, I never really thought of it as something really important. I went to get my graduation photos because I knew it would make my family happy to have them rather than out of a will to have a memento of my last year of university.

As the winter semester progressed, I was so engrossed with my work at The Link that the end of the semester was framed more as the endpoint of my time at the publication than it was the endpoint of my studies.

And then, what was I going to do with my actual, physical degree, anyway? Get it framed and put it up on a wall? Why would I do that, so it can be left to collect dust somewhere, like my McDonald’s Employee of the Month awards or my CEGEP and high school diplomas?

Or, worse still, as media companies are getting absolutely devastated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (and it was already bad before), will it serve as a testament to my failures if I don’t find a job in journalism in the next weeks, months, years?

But now that I’ve essentially just phased into post-grad unemployment as anxious and basically depressed as ever, I wish I could get all the pomp and circumstance, just for a minute. I really do.

Of course, it’s silly, and a little (or a lot) selfish to wish for something so inconsequential while people are dying in our CHSLDs, not to mention all the people facing economic uncertainty or who will be forced to return to work in unsafe environments in the name of the almighty dollar.

I’d probably be bored out of my skull until they call out my name or the name of people I know at the ceremony anyway. But God damn would I take a drab ceremony in an auditorium with hundreds of people I’ve never met and will never see again over being at home with nothing to look forward to, spending my days desperately trying to get some sleep and get something, anything, done of worth.

Maybe I just want to be validated to try and get out of my mental sludge, just to be told “Olivier, congratulations, you accomplished something actually pretty major with your life.” Maybe I just want some closure of the four years I’ve spent at this institution. Maybe I’m just getting cabin fever and I’m desperate for any sort of assembly of more than two humans at once. All I know is, I’m going to soak in every second of that “online celebration” in June.

I’m really hoping we do get something in person eventually, too.

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