Jennifer Peña/Assistant Opinion Director
Imagine this: It’s 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in summer of 2020. Your laptop is connected to the TV, and you take a seat on the sofa next to your sleeping dog. “What’s on TV today?” you think. “Oh, just my graduation.” You don the cap and gown that came in the mail a month prior, waiting to move your tassel from one side of the cap to another without any other graduates in sight.
The energy around graduation is simply different when it’s virtual, a major life moment that you’ve worked toward for years taking the form of a quiet afternoon with your immediate family. But despite the lower levels of energy that come with watching your graduation instead of physically experiencing it, it still is a huge deal to graduate.
Repeated days at home—working, studying, and socializing behind the screen in the same few spots—can lend themselves to mundanity. The idea of a virtual graduation can feel like just another virtual meeting to attend as you sit at your bedroom desk for the millionth consecutive day since remote learning started in March (also known as 30 years ago).
It’s hard to get excited about graduation the same way you would if you were able to walk the stage after four years of hard work. In different circumstances, you would be graduating alongside the classmates you’ve come to know, as well as a few thousand you’ve never seen before.
Since I won’t be seeing my fellow graduates at the ceremony, I made sure to attend the commencement caravan this past Friday, July 24. Music was booming from a booth between the Blue and Gold Garages, and graduates drove by in decorated cars. Roary was dressed for the occasion in his basketball shorts and graduation gown.
When I left campus that morning still wearing my cap, the reason for the event started to sink in. In a few short days, I’ll be a graduate. That alone is cause for excitement, but the added bonus of a goodie bag with trinkets like a “#FIUgrad” cup was a nice touch. Plus, I was glad to be invited back on campus, even if it was only for a few minutes.
For a while, I found it difficult to be excited about the virtual ceremony, especially after months of working and studying online, and spending the past few weeks stressing over my senior capstone project. Talking to an old friend who’s excited to be a first-generation graduate this summer helped me remember how big of a deal it really is to finish a degree program.
After the mundanity of cycling through my daily schedules behind my laptop screen all summer, I had almost lost sight of all that there was to be excited about—after all, the current circumstances don’t lend themselves to us walking in our caps and gowns to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Still, even if the “walking” only means taking a stroll from the front door to the sofa (and back, if you want to maximize the “walking” effect), what matters is the whole point of the event: graduating. If you’re not planning to walk in the next in-person graduation, at least you walked—around the living room. It’s the thought that counts.
With that said, as I graduate from home this Sunday, I plan to do so with a smile and enjoy the bittersweet realization that my dog was able to attend my graduation—something that I wouldn’t have believed was possible if you had told me so six months ago.
Congratulations, Panther graduates! At home or otherwise, we did it.
Featured image from FIU Flickr.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.