The last few weeks have taught me more about grief and anxiety than any class could
Until a few weeks ago, no one could have anticipated that we would have to cancel in-class instruction for the term. No teacher or student expected the semester to abruptly end in the chaotic way that it did.
Because of COVID-19, closure is something the class of 2020 will never get.
We’ve all had to make adjustments, and our routines have been totally upended. I’m mourning the scheduled plans that inevitably got cancelled, and have found a weird nostalgia for the normalcy of my university routine and life that seemed so guaranteed just weeks ago.
On March 11, I stopped going to my classes because I felt sick with some very minor symptoms of COVID-19. I hadn’t yet realized that that would be the last time I was on campus for the semester, and I obviously didn’t know I was going to get sick. My departure from UVic was totally unexpected, no goodbyes were said and there were certainly no hugs.
From home, I watched case numbers rise and reported on updates about UVic’s response. When I heard the news that UVic had cancelled in-class instruction, my initial feeling was the giddy snow day feeling of knowing that I could spend time at home.
After that excitement wore off, feelings of anxiety and grief replaced it as I began to realize that my life had become unrecognizable within a matter of days.
I started adjusting to the online format, but between the mental health hurdles the pandemic created and my physical health, I struggled. I know many students feel the same way, if not worse, and I’ve been grateful to my professors that have shown leniency.
While I am in my fourth year, and I am tired of being in university, I have to admit that there is something about being on campus that can’t be replaced online. I have personally spent a few mornings getting drenched by rain waiting for the bus, only to find the bus packed for the entire duration of my 40-minute ride to UVic. On those days and many others, I wished campus was closed.
After all, if we can do classes online, I have to ask — why did we ever go to campus in the first place? Maybe it’s the old socratic method of learning from one and other, or maybe it’s the social capital idea that doing things together improves the health of our communities. Ironically, I think the reason we come to campus is actually something academia can’t explain.
Although I wasn’t surprised by UVic’s announcement that in-person classes were cancelled, particularly because they did it so late, I also know that I am not alone in feeling like the last few weeks have been a stressful whirlwind that made this ending feel all the more unstable.
The real lack of closure comes from how we all abruptly left campus, leaving so many strings untied on a semester that was not nearly finished. Our professors and support staff, both in the university and within the SUB, deserve a massive thank you for all of their work in helping students navigate this pandemic-induced chaos.
Graduating in the middle of a recession, a pandemic, and a climate crisis is not exactly going to launch this year’s grads into their careers. It is the worst time to be looking for a job since the Great Depression.
Right now, being unemployed and freshly graduated is going to be difficult. It’s going to force many recent grads into debt, while rent remains unaffordable and job prospects remain absent.
The class of 2020, and those shortly thereafter that have had their studies impacted by a pandemic, will enter the job market having built up an immense amount of resilience, self-awareness, and boredom-induced creativity. This might not be valuable now, and unemployment will be something many will have to accept.
No one wins in a pandemic. It is taking the lives of people that other people love and the aftershocks will be felt for years to come.
Once this resolves, we won’t go back to the way things were. We are learning how to slow down, care for one another, and support our communities — albeit over Zoom. It is difficult to teach those skills in class. But I can’t help but think that the world desperately needs this graduating class, even if no one can employ them right now.