By Vianney Cardenas/El Inde
Every day, around 6:19 a.m., I am woken up by the sound of a jump rope whipping the wooden floor of my small but comfortable home. My brother is jumping away in the living room as if no one is around or much less, asleep. I take a big sigh and bury my head in my pillow, something that I’ve found myself doing much of in the past few weeks. I lay there, stare at my blank white walls and sigh some more. “Another day of quarantine,” I think to myself.
It’s important for me to keep a daily routine, even in the midst of these weird times. I try to do the same thing every day: I get up from my comfortable bed, brush my teeth, shower, throw on some leggings, a freshly-washed t-shirt, and socks. I walk over to the kitchen, where I find my mother already clocked in and working on her laptop. Sometimes I try to give her a hug and make conversation, but it’s rare when it’s reciprocated. “She’s busy,” I always remind myself. I go back to making a cup of coffee and walk to my room where I open up my laptop to get started on the countless things I have to do.
I would be lying if I said I get started right away. More than ever, I find myself struggling to focus on getting my work done. The small, but present motivation I had coming into my senior year at the University of Arizona has completely vanished. What kept me going was knowing that graduation in May would come and therefore all the hard work would be paid off. Now, I can’t say that is the case.
A few weeks ago, I received various emails from the university regarding how this pandemic would change the course of things. One of the messages was asking me to not return to campus, a place that I had given countless hours to, and one where I spent more time on than my own home. Frankly, it has been a place that I found comfort in, no matter how much stress it brought me.
I left the campus that I have come to love on Friday, March 6, not knowing that I wouldn’t be able to return to it again. I left my classes not knowing that I wouldn’t see my colleagues or professors in person ever again. How could I have known? How could anyone have known?
It was mid-March when life as we know it came to a sudden stop. Sure, we had heard of the virus that was sweeping the world by storm before then, but not to this extreme. When I least expected it, classes were being moved online, large sports events were being cancelled, grocery stores were being raided and people were fighting over toilet paper. My mind couldn’t comprehend what was happening as I scrolled through Twitter and saw the world go up in flames.
A few days later, another email from the university titled “Commencement Update” lit up my phone. I hesitantly opened it to read what I had been expecting, but certainly not wanting. “I am so sorry to have to announce yet one more difficult but necessary decision regarding the most important event we have on campus all year, Commencement,” the university president wrote to the class of 2020. All graduation ceremonies, canceled.
With this simple sentence, everything that I had been working towards slipped through the cracks and became something I will never experience. Amidst all the chaos surrounding me, this has been one of the hardest pills to swallow. Knowing that I won’t have the graduation that I have been working towards for many years really pains me, as silly as that may sound to you and even me.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am normally not one to ‘celebrate’ myself or attract attention in any form. In the most sincere way, I don’t like it. I’d rather keep to myself in any and all situations. However, there was something about graduation in May that led me to be okay with celebrating myself and bringing attention to the work I’ve done. In fact, I was looking forward to it. Now, not only has it been taken away from me but also from thousands of others who have worked just as much, if not more. To put it bluntly, it sucks a whole lot. While I completely understand why it happened the way it did, I feel like our feelings should be valid.
On one hand, I have friends and family expressing their sympathy for how it all has played out. On the other hand, I have people saying “it’s just a graduation. You should be grateful you’re healthy and safe.” I agree, completely. It’s all true.
I am healthy, I have a roof over my head and I have the privilege of being employed during these difficult times. That should be acknowledged. However, what they fail to understand is that my pain is not solely rooted in the fact that I won’t have a graduation ceremony. It is not and has never been about the photos, the celebrations, and the ceremonies. It’s way deeper than that: it’s about finally being proud of myself for accomplishing a goal and hearing someone say they’re proud of me, too. It’s about finally believing in myself and finally being seen for my accomplishments. I could care less about the act of walking a stage in a room full of strangers.
Nevertheless, as I sit here trapped within these four white walls, I feel my eyes getting watery and can’t help but feel an immense sadness wash over me. I realize that I can’t rely on my family or on others to be proud of myself. I realize that I can’t rely on anyone to believe in myself. I need to find that all on my own. Neither a graduation ceremony, my family or my friends can give me that. No one but myself. Who knows, maybe that breakthrough will occur during this period of isolation or maybe it will happen when I’m older, if I’m lucky enough to continue getting to know the world.
But I know one day it will come and I can’t wait. For now, I will continue to stay home, continue to sigh, and continue to be woken up by that annoying jump rope.