By Mish DeCarlo/El Inde
I cried for eight hours straight. Well, it was more like sobbing. And that was just during my drive from Tucson to my home in Huntington Beach, California. You should have seen me the night before after a glass (or rather, bottle) of wine.
By the time I pulled into my driveway, my gray sorority sweatshirt was stained with tears and my eyelash extensions were clumped together. I knew my parents would be welcoming me home with warm hugs and thoughtful condolences on my incomplete senior year. I knew they’d tell me hopeful messages about a graduation ceremony that they were so looking forward to attending and would nonetheless be proud of me for. I knew they meant well — and would genuinely mean what they’re saying — but I couldn’t hear it.
I pulled out of my driveway and turned onto Pacific Coast Highway. The ocean has always had a way of calming me.
I sat on the bluffs and watched the sunset over the horizon. On evenings like these, you could see the outline of Santa Catalina Island, which sits about 30 miles off the coast, the Downtown Long Beach skyline and boats coming in and out of the port. It was so clear — unlike the rest of my life. Cue another sob-fest.
At this stage in my life — I’m a 22-year-old second-semester college senior — there was supposed to be nothing but blue skies and endless parties ahead. My post-graduation job was lined up. My senior pictures were scheduled. Cap and gown purchased. My entire extended family’s travel reservations for graduation weekend were booked. Thirteen stoles and cords had been collected to drape as trophies over my neck during commencement. I had a summer full of travel to look forward to.
But then, Covid-19 spread. And it kept spreading, until health officials, the president of the United States, university administration and businesses said we all had to adjust to our new reality and go home. So I packed up my beautiful, white crown molded room at my sorority house, said goodbye to my friends who had become like family, and drove home to quarantine. That was the only thing that was for certain.
It sucks. There really isn’t another way to say it. My life as I knew it was just ripped from under me, and possibly all that I had planned for my future was too, given that my post-grad job required full-time travel, something that isn’t likely now.
But what sucks even more, is that I hate complaining about it. I shouldn’t be complaining, and I know that. I should be so lucky to be crying over a canceled graduation ceremony — at least I’m still graduating. At least I can still go back to my parents’ house. At least my mom still does my laundry (in fear that my brother, dad, or I will mess up the Feng-Shui in her laundry room). At least I can be with my family. The list goes on, and I am thankful. I am thankful for my options, security, family, health care professionals, all the essential businesses and their employees — but still, it sucks. It all sucks.
As dusk settled around me by the shore, it was time to finally go home. I took a long way home and waited until the last gleam of light was gone before turning off of PCH.
I pulled into my driveway, again. The garage door sprung open and my dog ran out to greet and sniff my legs for clues to where I had been for the past seven months. I imagine she smelled citrus and creosote with maybe a whiff of the dirty laundry that was piled behind me.
Just as I predicted, my parents walked out of the garage to embrace my homecoming. They hugged and kissed me and then began grabbing bags and boxes from my trunk. While standing in the dark driveway holding my life as I knew it in my hands, the comments and condolences began.
“We’re so sad that your senior year has to end this way,” my mom said.
“It’s a shame they canceled graduation. We couldn’t wait to party in the desert,” my dad said.
“Do you think they’ll reschedule graduation?” my mom asked.
“Have they said anything about it?” my dad asked.
“Do you still get a cap and gown?” my mom asked.
“When do classes start online?” my dad asked.
“You need to wipe all your stuff down because it can carry coronavirus,” my mom said.
“Is this everything?” my dad asked.
“Yes, this is everything,” I said.