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Graduating During a World Pandemic


I have always struggled with endings. As the first day of my last college semester started, I dreaded knowing that there would also be a last day of my last semester. Fraught with the anticipation of change, I entered January knowing that my world would shift. Graduating necessitated leaving a community that I loved and cherished, and I knew that day would be overwhelming.

It wasn’t until I received my first post-grad job offer that I finally felt comfortable making the transition into something new. The certainty of working in a field I loved and creating a new community excited me. I made peace with moving on, knowing there were months left to see my friends, enjoy Detroit, and finish my final year strong. I was content knowing that there would eventually be closure.

COVID-19 alleviated my fear of endings, by depriving me and every other graduating senior of the ability to say goodbye. Suddenly, there was no more guarantee that I would get to see my friends or the city. As my job offer fell through, I realized that there was no guarantee of anything, and I was forced to confront that the security I once felt for my future was an illusion. As I coped with the loss of graduation, the loss of a job, and the loss of closure, I turned to my community. That was really all I, and my peers, could do. Suddenly, there was no ending and no goodbye and my anticipation of an end subsided.

Surviving COVID-19 in an uncertain world has taught me the importance of rooting myself in the places where I can find support. Moving into a new reality where I could no longer see what was in front of me pushed me to reach out to others. I started to e-meet people over LinkedIn as I prepared to search for a new job. For every person I met, I asked them to introduce me to two other people who had the same passions as I did. People started showing up for me and my community grew.

That’s the beauty of being in a city like Detroit. People are filled with passion and a willingness to support those around them. While tempting to move on from what is familiar in hopes to create something new, our past communities’ beckon for change. Now is not the time to treat that call with reckless abandon but instead it is the time to meet the challenge and give back to the places that define us.

As I mourn the ending of college and the ending of a world I was never able to discover, I find comfort in knowing that this is only a beginning. While potentially a cliché, COVID-19 provided an opportunity to me and many recent college graduates to evaluate our priorities and invest in the spaces that mean the most to us. Entering into an uncertain job market and a changed world provides us with the tools to imagine new beginnings and new futures outside of our wildest imaginations. COVID-19 necessitates societal change, and while it is unfortunate that the Class of 2020 bears a copious amount of that weight it is also exciting that we have an unprecedented ability to make a difference.

Because the world as we once knew it has ended, the tools that many of us relied on to find jobs and define our future have also ended. The rules are unwritten, and the actions we take are unmatched. I’m imagining a better world that is rooted in my community as I navigate uncertainty and I hope you’re willing to do the same with me. There is no longer a formula or a set of rules to propel us forward — only with the help of others we can ground ourselves in beginnings.

Written by Let’s Detroit campus ambassador Kristina Curtiss.

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