Graduating in a pandemic

Celebration for receiving diploma may not happen, but it’s one of Young’s most valuable possessions


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ANNA YOUNG, Evergreen reporter

I took my first online class ever in my senior year of high school. It was Spanish II, and I only went online because I couldn’t stand being in a class of really, really obnoxious freshman. They say sometimes, if you go into Capital High School late at night, you can still hear Ms. Van Stry yelling at the students rampaging around the classroom.

So I went online. And it was a mistake (though it would have been a bigger mistake to stay with all those freshies). The teacher remotely running the course responded to all questions with “read the assignment again,” and after a few weeks I gave up on logging in at all.

I got my first B of my entire high school career after bombing the final — which I cheated on heartily, but still goofed up somehow — and vowed never again to take an online class.

Imagine my reaction circa March 2020.

My distaste was totally warranted, too. I got my first college B in planetology last semester, a class I loved to death in person but grew to loathe online. For the life of me, I couldn’t make myself watch pre-recorded lectures, and my notes turned into doodles of me smashing my head into a keyboard.

But it was only going to last a week. No, wait, a month. Actually, the rest of the semester. Actually, it was going to last all of fall 2020, too.

Well … sh*t.

That meant my plans to study abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, went out the window for spring 2021 because I couldn’t apply for a visa. I was unemployed for a while, and I’m forever grateful that my parents could back me up when that happened. Less monumentally, the first-ever Vampire Weekend concert in Montana got canceled – yes, I will forever be salty about it.

And then at some point, I realized all my credits were covered. There was nothing else to do. I could graduate, and a semester early, too.

As of this Friday, I will be one degree-holding bad*ss. Creative writing major, music technology minor, non-degree certificate in editing and publishing. Little to no fanfare, really, but that’s fine by me — with two older sisters and a number of older friends, I’ve gone to so many graduations that hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” gives me a Pavlovian-response headache.

In the end, it’s all fine by me, but I know there are others who will feel cheated out of the experience of walking at commencement. Ceremonies are not my cup of tea, but for all you other seniors graduating under the radar this semester who aren’t happy about it, I really am sorry. I hope you get something better in the future.

As for me, I’m going home to my parents in Montana to sleep for about a week straight. We’ll do a quiet Christmas Eve, with a remotely broadcast Lutheran church service (and while we’re counting our blessings, staying remote means I’ll get out of a 20-minute sharing of the peace. So. Many. Handshakes). Christmas Day will hopefully involve me snuggling my dogs, eating cinnamon rolls with my family and wearing the same fuzzy socks from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed.

My favorite holiday by far, New Year’s, won’t be the rager it usually is, but maybe that’s okay. I’ll want time to reflect on the past year.

Like, it was a whirlwind for me even without the pandemic and the protests and the election. In infinitely smaller ways, but ways that mattered to me.

I got a short story published in an anthology at the beginning of the year. My 21 run took place three days before the first shutdowns and about a week before my professors told us we were going online for a while. I got an offer to record music with a studio in Boston that is indefinitely on hold, but that’s motivated me to polish my composing/performing/mixing skills. A colleague of one of my favorite authors of all time, Tamora Pierce, started helping me edit a novel manuscript that I completed early in January.

And now I’ve got half a year to do two things: go to work and relax. I’ve applied to a number of grad schools for creative writing, so I’ll be pulling my hair out all winter until I find out if I’ve gotten in anywhere. For now, though, I’ll try to mitigate my hand-wringing with the happy knowledge that, hey … I did it.

When I finally get my diploma (and guaranteed, it’s going to be all wrinkled up from its journey through the postal system), you best believe it’s going in a pretty frame and hanging on the wall of my apartment. In my last Culture Brew, I talked about how a handful of people discouraged me from getting an English degree because they thought it would be worthless.

But after all the work I put in, and especially after this year, it’s one of the most valuable things I own.