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Notes of Nostalgia: a different kind of commencement

I’ve always loved a ritual.

Proms, bat mitzvahs, confirmations, swearing-in ceremonies, quinceañeras, masses, weddings, funerals. And graduations. 

Rituals help us take what is ordinary, what is necessary, and transform it into an event. A moment that helps us step out of our everyday selves to recognize that the momentous has happened.

As much as I dreaded my younger brother’s funeral, I needed it. I needed the “Amazing Grace,” the familiar prayers, the readings and the homily on the afterlife to acknowledge that this happened. People have died before, even in the most unexpected and horrible ways, and people will die again, and we have a way to recognize that, to take a pause and truly feel it, before we continue on. 

Now, it looks like the chance to pause and feel how momentous graduating is might be taken away.

I’ve looked forward to commencement since the first moment I stepped on Miami’s campus. Not because I was eager to leave, but because I was a shy 18-year-old from a small town in Kentucky, worried that everyone else on campus knew more, felt more comfortable and dressed better than I did.

I was eager for that moment four years in the future, putting all my faith in the power college had to transform me into someone confident and worldly. I would walk across the stage with my family sitting proudly in the Millett stands, toward a career that would help me erase the truly inadvisable amount of student loan debt I had taken on. 

Now, as we approach an uncertain end to this semester and the Class of 2020’s time at Miami, I’m nostalgic for that daydream: the commencement moment I imagined would tie a neat bow on the most tumultuous years of my life so far.

My fellow seniors, it looks like we won’t get our ritual — at least not in the way we imagined it. 

But we don’t need caps and gowns or Millett Hall to mark the changes we’ve grown through over our time here. We can still create our own rituals, imbued with meaning from the unique time we’re living in. 

It’s not the giant commencement ceremony that makes graduation from Miami valuable. It’s the little moments we can still participate in, coronavirus be damned. Step on the seal. Take a long walk alone through campus. Collect all the pictures from the past four years that you can find in group chats and on social media. 

We still lived such a life, in such a place. Painful as it is, I think we should all take a moment in whatever ways we can, to remember that.

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