Much like the folks who had a virtual courthouse wedding and waited on a reception, I finished my final MBA class in December of 2019 and just recently attended my graduation ceremony. The event had been cancelled three times previously, so admittedly, I was bracing myself.
I wonder if that’s something we’ll continue to see as more places open up again and life returns to whatever version of normal we can accommodate. I was so sure that the ceremony would be called off for a fourth time, I barely bothered to plan anything. To give you an idea, I was so excited in December 2019 that I scheduled a hair appointment, touched up my roots, got a pedicure and a new dress. This time, I somewhat remembered to straighten my hair. My blonde roots would be out in full glory and I had only remembered two weeks prior that I should probably have something to wear that would suit a summer ceremony.
I wasn’t even excited, just waiting for the inevitable email cancellation. Then, the CDC news came that those who were vaccinated could forgo a mask. That made the event seem a bit more possible, especially considering it was an outdoor ceremony.
A quick weather check showed a stormy weekend, so I anticipated a weather call. Not unusual, the same thing happened in December 2019. But as we arrived, the sky was overcast, with no rain. Even then, an indoor ceremony schedule had been drafted up. In short, this really was happening.
I spent most of the ceremony in a daze. I had been waiting for over a year and yet, it barely registered. When I walked up on stage and got hooded, I felt almost robotic, trying to remember where to look and stand. I wonder if any of my fellow graduates felt similarly.
Attending a milestone event as we come out of a pandemic felt honestly jarring. There was a mix of caution, excitement and exhaustion in the air. There was the joy of seeing an old classmate coupled with the instinctive urge to socially distance. The thrill of an accomplishment achieved but no idea how to respond to others’ elation. It almost felt like learning how to walk again after a year of sitting still… cautious but optimistic.
Even a few days later, it still throws me off to see my diploma hanging on a shelf instead of in an envelope in a drawer. For a while, I had forgotten it was there. Now I can’t.
This ceremony more or less marks the start of my own “return to normal.” The day I walked on stage was the day I was fully vaccinated, passing the two week waiting period. In a few weeks, I’ll be back at the office full time. The event was like a baby step into how things will start to look for me and I imagine, for others as well.
My biggest takeaway is how hard I’ve leaned on basic security measures. I was relieved to see how the seats were spread apart in the stadium. I only took my mask off for photos. I used hand sanitizer religiously.
As I make my way back into my version of normal, I think that’s more or less how I’ll continue. I still carry extra masks and sanitizer with me everywhere I go. In terms of feeling secure, it’s done wonders and I believe it will continue to do so.
Congratulations to the classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021! Let’s keep up the good work and get vaccinated!