The Graduation That Never Was

This last Tuesday was my graduation from university. Not to toss my own cap or anything, but I somehow managed to achieve a first-class bachelor’s degree from one of the best universities in the world. I’m proud of myself. But, thanks to the current pandemic, I won’t get the chance to don the cap and gown and celebrate with all my university friends. That’s fine. Obviously, it would have been nice to have had all that, but I also agree completely with the decision to ban graduation ceremonies. So, instead of having a traditional graduation, my university arranged a YouTube video to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2020.

My father and two of my sisters were able to come over to my house and we set up the projector so we could watch it on the big screen! It was… fine. I don’t know what I had expected from it if I’m honest; perhaps the dean reading out the names of the graduates accompanied by the awful passport-style pictures that we all had taken by the university when we first began our degrees. But no, it was mostly just the lecturers (only two of whom I actually recognised) reading out what was essentially the same message of congratualtions over and over. I’ve spoken to a few people who weren’t happy about the fact that only those people who won awards were mentioned by name, but in a pinch (and ‘pinch’ is really putting this whole pandemic very lightly) I thought it was nice to have anything at all.

Graduation via projector

What made it really special for me was that one of my lecturers chose to read out a part of one of the poems that I had written as a part of my final creative writing portfolio. It was really unexpected to get a shout out like that, and it brought a little tear of pride to all of our eyes, including mine. Though I do half suspect that mine was chosen due to the fact that that particular lecturer knows I am going back to begin my master’s degree in September, so he actually has to see me again.

My actual graduation cake

My husband ordered a special graduation cake for me, I made a few sandwiches and we just tried to make the most of it. We had planned to have a few drinks in my sister’s garden the following Saturday so that my mother and some of my friends could come along and celebrate my graduation too. My sisters garden is much, much bigger than mine, so she has the room for us to be together and still maintain social distancing. That’s where I should be now, at this very moment as I’m writing this blog. Unfortunately, on Thursday night the government announced that all of Greater Manchester had to go back into lockdown, effective from midnight that night, due to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases detected.

This second lockdown has hit a lot of us pretty hard, and a lot of people are understandably angry. This is a blanket lockdown which covers areas (like the one I live in) that have actually seen huge decreases in the number of coronavirus cases detected. It was also imposed with only two and a half hours notice, when many people would have had plans to travel or to visit family. Myself and my husband had, just that same day, made arrangements to finally travel down south to see his parents for the first time all year. We had set the date and my husband had booked two days off work (which his boss thankfully allowed him to cancel again just a few hours after booking them).

The worst part though, is that this was imposed the day before Eid al-Adha. This one doesn’t affect me personally, but it really puts all that complaining about graduation via YouTube video and not being allowed to drink in my sister’s garden into perspective. I understand the need to put people back into lockdown if the infection rate are beginning to rise again, I think that keeping people safe is the most important thing. But I can’t even imagine the heartbreak of all those families who had been excited to celebrate the holiday with loved ones whom they might not have seen for months. To suddenly be told just before you go to bed that night that your celebration plans have to be cancelled is upsetting at the very least. But when I consider the alternative, and think of those who have already lost their loved ones, then I can understand why this has been done.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that a lot of people are feeling sad right now. They are sad because they can’t celebrate holidays. They are sad because they can’t see their friends and family. They are sad because their birthdays will be celebrated indoors with only those people that they live with. They are sad because the years they spent studying didn’t end with the graduation they expected. And it is ok to be sad! Yes, the alternative is much worse. Actually losing someone you love to this virus would be infinitely sadder than anything that any of us miss out on while trying to avoid that happening. But it’s still ok to be sad. Just, be safe too!

Whatever you are missing out on right now, I want to wish you a happy birthday, a warm congratulations, happy holidays, and Eid Mubarak! I also wish you all health and happiness and send my hopes that things will get better. We will see our loved ones again soon. We will celebrate all of the things that we have missed out on, twice as hard, and with twice the thanks to be able to do so!

Take care x

I’m naming him John

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