Graduation for every student is something we all look forward to. It's about more than just donning a gown and smiling for Instagram while popping a bottle of champagne at the most photogenic spot on campus.
And as a non-traditional student, graduation means even more to me. After ten years, two associate degrees and three years of rejection from my schools of choice it seemed like I was finally standing at the threshold of my career.
In February, I traveled to Seattle with the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations for agency tours. We met with professionals, expanded our networks and received invaluable advice. Standing atop the Space Needle on our last day, I felt literally on top of the world. My possibilities seemed limitless.
But now, the idea of graduation during a global pandemic looks much different. The old adage that "life can change in the blink of an eye" is true.
Classes were canceled. Internships suspended. Students moved home.
For a while, the decision to cancel graduation hung in the air. Eventually, San Diego State University decided to postpone graduation until December.
While I respect the decision and appreciate the effort, there's something about graduating six months late that feels lackluster. It puts a little more bitter in the bittersweet.
When announcing their commencement decision, the University of California, Los Angeles tweeted, "Please remember: the day does not define the journey."
They almost hit the mark with that, but not quite.
In fact, graduation day represents the journey. It represents the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. It represents reaching the peak of the mountain we've been climbing, especially for people like me, whose trek took a little longer.
My classmates agree.
SDSU student, McKenna Wecker from Colorado feels robbed of her experience. "I feel like I'm mourning my senior year," she said. "I won't be able to celebrate with my peers because many of them won't be returning in December."
Mariah Hugo, a San Diego native, had hoped to move away from home after college. "Now that prospective companies have put hiring on pause, the job market looks really bleak for the class of 2020," she said.
At a time when the class of 2020 should be celebrating with the college community we've become part of and the profession we're about to enter, we are isolated and alone without any concept of time.
We are searching for jobs that disappeared in the blink of an eye. We are paralyzed in place – we haven't said goodbye to school and we haven't been welcomed into our future careers.
This story doesn't have a happy ending, because it doesn't have an ending. The future for me and the other class of 2020 graduates is uncertain. But when we finally graduate and the world is ready for us, please know; we are ready for you!
Chelsea Heath is Broom Student Fellow and graduating PR major at San Diego State University