Six weeks ago, I absent-mindedly packed my suitcase for a senior-year spring break cruise. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was quite literally packing up my life as I knew it. That cruise would be my last hoorah before the global pandemic, COVID-19. I wanted just one week away from my sweet college town, not an abrupt end, but it turned into the end of my college career. I don’t have any idea what my future holds. I don’t have a job lined up after graduation, which is less than three weeks away. My only source of income prior to COVID-19 was working as a nanny. Now, I don’t even have that. Many nights, I lay awake anxious and unable to sleep, wondering if I’ll have to move home with my parents once my lease in Raleigh runs out. How am I supposed to afford rent if the hiring freeze continues indefinitely?
Walking across the stage at graduation is the pinnacle I’ve dreamed about my whole life. As a sentimental senior eagerly awaiting the moment to turn her tassel amongst the red sea in PNC Arena, not getting to say a proper goodbye has left me utterly heartbroken and wondering, “What’s the point of pomp if we end up celebrating circumstance three, four or five months down the road?”
It might seem stupid to be getting upset about school when everyone’s health is at risk, but, for me, everything was ripped from me without warning all because of a virus.
I will never walk out of my final class feeling the weight of the world lift off my shoulders, nor will I hear the applause after giving my final presentation as a student. The list of “I will never” goes on, but the list of “I am grateful for” is even longer when I really stop and think about it.
I am grateful for my time spent at the most extraordinary university both here in Raleigh and abroad at the NC State European Center in Prague. I am grateful for every campus tour I ever gave as a university ambassador. I am grateful for my two years serving on executive councils for Fraternity and Sorority Life. Most importantly, I am grateful for the exploratory studies program at NC State, which not only helped me find my path but also led me to lifelong friends, courtesy of Owen Hall. I’m grateful for cheering on the Wolfpack athletics, win or lose.
And while I can’t quite see the light at the end of the Free Expression Tunnel, I look forward to the day we can all properly celebrate together in honor of the class of 2020. For now, as NC State legend Jimmy V once said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
Sarah Grace Johnson is a fourth-year studying communication.