Graduations are bittersweet

The months of March, April and May are not just about the summer season, out-of-town vacations, pool and beach trips or swimsuits. It’s also that time of year when graduating students post pictures wearing their togas or their creative shots, flooding social media timelines in celebration of finishing school or moving up.

Two years ago, I also posted online my college graduation picture.

I finished college in May 2019. I remember buzzing from excitement and nervousness (mainly because I was afraid I’d trip and fall in front of hundreds of people despite practicing for months) when we arrived at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). I remember having thoughts like, “Am I really about to graduate?” It felt like it was just yesterday that I first stepped into my now-alma mater. Mostly, I was also consumed by: “How long will this take?” or “What if I embarrass myself?”

I wasn’t good at walking in heels, so tripping on stage was my greatest concern back then. The other was how to entertain myself for the next three to four hours, along with how to sneak food into my small bag. I achieved neither since I took a quick nap after my name was called and food was prohibited inside the venue.

GRADUATIONS have now turned virtual because of the Covid-19 pandemic. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF UNSPLASH/VASILY KODA

I thankfully did not trip (my biggest win that day).

There was also the challenge of finding my parents (and friends) in the sea of people after the ceremony. My mom, dad and stepdad came with me. My boyfriend, too. All four of them admitted to dozing off in the middle of the rites (which is understandable, since everyone didn’t get much sleep, or none at all, the night before in preparation for the big day) and texted me in-between their naps to ask how long the whole thing was going to take.

If I endured four years of college, what’re a few more hours, right? I remember having thought of it that way.

It was, after all, the last day of school.

Graduations are bittersweet.

Sure, it’s an achievement and a privilege to finish, but the comforting walls of college, the memories I made and people I met were the things that I found myself missing once the bitter reality of graduation hit (not to mention that the next step to adulthood is terrifying).

Back then, I couldn’t wait to get out of college, but now I sometimes find myself wanting to go back to a classroom, stressing over homework or projects, or sleeping over at a friend’s house to work on the dreaded thesis that will later turn into chikahan session — back when things were simpler.

NOW I find myself wanting to go back to a classroom, a time when things were much simpler. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF UNSPLASH/TAIS CAPTURES

Schoolmates I grew up with, I lost communication after that day (not counting, of course, the updates I get from their social media posts). I can vividly remember the proud smiles of their loved ones while they were hugging as I passed by. Unfortunately, that was the last I saw them since.

A lot has changed since Covid-19 struck and, even after a year, there is still uncertainty looming over the whole world. And just as the pandemic did to everything else, spoiling milestones in life, students last year did not feel the beauty in face-to-face graduation and moving-up ceremonies, and robbed them of the experience of simple things such as going to school. Some spent their last year working on online classes.

The much-awaited graduation turned virtual. Ceremonies were done inside living rooms, the handaan served just a few steps from the room. No one had to travel far just to go to a restaurant to celebrate or physically wait for hours (and doze off) for the ceremony to be over. There were no worries of tripping on stage or making a big fool of oneself in front of schoolmates or anxious by looking for your parents in the crowd afterwards. It was practical, safe but also inadequate.

Here’s to wishing that virtual graduations will not be the norm in the future.

However, virtual graduation or not, you did it! Congratulations to the graduating batch of 2021!

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