Cliffhangers: An open letter to UGA seniors

At the end of summer – right at the cusp of the semester starting back up again – a friend of mine reflected that, as a senior, college felt like a question answered. You know what your major is, what extracurriculars you spend most of your time doing, what study abroad you’re going to embark on. You have your go-to pals and your go-to coffee spot and your go-to professor and your go-to plans for a Friday night.

College is often lauded as the best four years of your life. A time when the world feels at your fingertips – you’re young and the possibilities are seemingly endless. It’s a massive chapter of your life, filled with memories and friends and mistakes and growth and raw hope.

But what happens when that chapter gets cut off mid-sentence? When everything seems to come to a screeching halt and, suddenly, all that stuff you thought was finally getting answered just becomes a giant question mark again.

That’s what it feels like being in the class of 2020 right now. And, from one extremely disgruntled and angsty senior, this. Sucks.

It feels like I didn’t get closure. When I left campus after class a week and a half ago, it was in a rush to catch the bus and get out of the rain. As I dashed past buildings and down steps, eager to get home after a long day of classes, I didn’t know it might be the last time I would be there. Now it feels like all those “last times” have been taken away from me.

I don’t get to sit one last time on that bench in the corner on the bottom floor of Grady. I don’t get to poke my head into Professor Johnston’s office anymore to talk about some random thought I had. I won’t get to see the persistent smile on Dean Davis’s face. I won’t get to chat with Derrick while he keys in my order at the Tate Starbucks. I won’t get to plop down on the couch in my producer’s office to talk with the other segment producers every Monday, where our weekly pitch meetings inevitably turn into us all laughing at each other. I won’t get to uncomfortably stand on an overcrowded Milledge Bus during the 9:30 a.m. class rush, and I won’t get to sweat my butt off in Sanford Stadium one last time for graduation.

Junior Year: Thanksgiving @ 104 Banbury Road

I had hoped to be the commencement speaker at Grady’s convocation. I had just pitched this story at the radio station that my producer and I were so psyched about. I was applying for internships and jobs for over the summer and in the fall. I was preparing to maybe book a trip abroad after graduation, get in some traveling as a pat on the back for working as hard as I have the last few years. Now, all of that is in question.

Nothing feels certain. As a control freak, I have no clue what to do. As a notorious nostalgic, I want to cry in frustration and lament the loss of my senior year (which I already did in my shower last night).

The past few days have left me with a lot of time for ruminating about the 3.75 years I had at UGA and all the great memories I’ve made, and time to sift through the complex feelings I’m having right now.

Junior Year: Peabody Awards

For starters, I definitely recognize that things could be a lot worse right now, and I’m so grateful that they’re not. While it sucks that my last semester of college has been waylaid like this and it’s valid to mourn the loss of that, I know that I am so fortunate to still be getting an education for the rest of the semester and still get my degree and that not having an actual graduation is small in comparison to what other people might be going through right now.

On top of that, although I won’t get the ending to college I had always envisioned, holy wow were the past few years great. The memories made and the accomplishments I’ve had could fill a whole other blog post. I can’t even begin to fathom how grateful I am to the University of Georgia and Athens for being another home to me and for helping me build my second family.

Junior Year: First time wearing the Grady Ambassador blazer

While I’m not entirely sure what the future holds, I’m taking comfort in the small daily victories. I’m still applying for jobs and internships in spite of the up-in-the-air timeline of all this. But whereas before my gaze was so tunnel-visioned on this uncharted path that I hoped would lead to success, now I’m a bit more focused on the little things I do in a day that bring me joy. Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend in our pajamas. It was glorious. I’ve been writing so much lately and it’s been so great.

My eyes are still glancing towards the future, but I’m more in the now than I was before and taking each new day of this incredibly unconventional last semester of college as it comes.

It’s kind of funny, actually – at a time in my life where there’s so much fixation on my future, I’ve done so much reminiscing on the past while also slowly learning to be more in the present.

Not all chapters have a picture perfect, neatly wrapped ending. Most chapters end in cliffhangers – a curve ball of uncertainty that leaves you scared, albeit eager, to find out what happens next. That’s how books keep you reading til the end.

Senior Year: Dawgs with the Dean

Well, Class of 2020, I think this is our cliffhanger and it’s up to us to write what happens next, with or without the grand finale to our quintessential college experience.

I keep thinking that we’re all going to snap out of this surreal alternate universe and it’ll be a normal weekly morning. I’ll drag myself out of bed, bemoaning how stupidly late (or early) I stayed up the night before, drink my cup of coffee and cram myself onto the Milledge bus to get to campus.

But we probably won’t, at least not for a long time. And that sucks, but it’s okay. Mourn it. Cry over it. Remember it, and then get up and keep living it. Just because UGA says we don’t get classes or graduation, doesn’t mean our senior year, or the rest of our lives, are over. This is just one cliffhanger of many we’re going to find ourselves looking over.

So go out and find what comes after this cliffhanger. Finish the sentence, and write the next chapter. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Go dawgs forever, and remember to wash your hands.

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