Most high school and college seniors are experiencing the same phenomenon I am losing the “lasts” that come with seniority. Losing graduation ceremonies, prom, time with friends you won’t get to see without a campus or classroom bringing you together. The worst part about it is how quickly it all slipped away. I had no way of knowing that when I left my university for spring break, I wouldn’t be coming back. I think about all the people I might never get to see again. I knew that separation was destined to happen once we all graduated, but it wasn’t supposed to come without the chance to properly say goodbye.
As I walk around my neighborhood (the only time I get to leave the house now that we have to shelter in place), neighbors ask how I’m feeling about the shutdown, how I’m handling it, and I don’t have a great answer for them. How do I explain that I’ve spent the past week making jokes, searching for humor in something that isn’t funny because I’m not sure what I’ll do if I can’t laugh about it? How do I even begin to try and express my disappointment when I know in the grand scheme of life, not walking across a stage to get my diploma isn’t the worst thing that could happen to me?
Sometimes it feels stupid to feel sad about it. It’s hard to grieve the loss of things and experiences when you know people are losing their lives and loved ones, their jobs and houses. I think, who am I to complain about not getting to hang out with my friends or get my diploma in person? My losses pale in comparison to so many others that it sometimes feels weird to claim I’ve lost anything at all. I’m “stuck” in a house with a family who loves me. We have food in the fridge. My dad still has his job. Nobody I know is sick. I go on Twitter, watch the news, and I feel guilty for having the privilege of being bored.
This feeling can be overwhelming, and in these moments, I find myself having to remember that things are allowed to be bad without having to be the worst. Yes, not getting to have a graduation ceremony isn’t comparable to losing a life. But it’s still a loss. Knowing that someone else has it worse doesn’t make it impossible for anyone else to feel sad. Pain isn’t like the Olympics — you don’t win a prize for losing the most. I think it’s important to recognize our privilege, our luck, our blessings, but that recognition shouldn’t come at the expense of our own emotions. Gratefulness and disappointment are not mutually exclusive feelings; one does not negate the other, so I think we should try and stop treating them like they do.
Author: Deanna Krikorian, Senior at Drake University
The team at Erika’s Lighthouse knows how challenging and difficult this transition is on our teens, educators, parents and others. We are here to help and support our young people. We have launched an exciting new campaign that will provide meaningful, practical resources for teens, educators and parents.