3 Life Lessons that Make the Coronavirus the Best Teacher.
Graduating from college amidst the pandemic sucked. But now that it's passed, I've learned from it.
“Did you see the latest email?”
“Yeah. I guess we’re moving online for the rest of the year. I guess it’s over.”
“What do you think this means for graduation?”
“I heard rumors it might be postponed, but I think it’s just canceled.”
My fiance and I were heartbroken. Four years of relationships, growth, and investment into this university, and now, without any warning, it was all over. As students were rushed away from campus, we couldn’t help but feel emotional. Our long-awaited graduation ceremony, with so many of our friends and family in attendance, was gone.
In the blink of an eye, nothing. No celebration, not even a scheduled Zoom call from our departments. Not even an email.
It was over.
No one wanted the 2020 spring semester to end the way that it did. The final month of my college career was one of the most jarring months of my life, and nothing about the ending of it was the way that I planned it. There were many tears, sleepless nights, and concern that seeing my friends was jeopardizing our lives.
It was hell.
But now that I’ve received my diploma and been hired into a position in my field with a company I care about, I can look back and reflect with a little bit more objectivity than before.
I still wish graduation had happened, but I’ve come to peace with the way my college career ended.
And it taught me some important lessons that I’ll hold onto for the rest of my life.
When everything falls apart, you get to see who’s left.
Life is full of distractions.
Everywhere you turn, something is vying for your attention. Whether that’s a new Netflix series, an important career opportunity, or an upcoming sports game, there’s always something to be distracted by.
Until there wasn’t.
And at that moment, I was able to really see what matters.
Friends. Family. Loved ones.
Those are the relationships that have my back no matter what else is there.
Once the pandemic shut down my university, I had to move out of student housing and off-campus into a house with some of my closest friends. I got to take advantage of a bad time with some good people.
Those moments were some that I’ll never forget.
Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to push us back to the ones we truly love and care about, but now that I’ve been reminded, I hope I never forget again.
There are problems that we can’t solve. And sometimes we just need to cry.
As a high-achiever, I have always wanted to grab problems by the horns and solve them as soon as I can. This has hindered my ability to listen sometimes, but it has always served me well when encountered with legitimate problems.
When the world shut down, I was worried about everything from my family’s health to a post-apocalyptic world reminiscent of I Am Legend.
While drifting aimlessly from one concern to another during that time, I came across stoic philosophy.
Stoic philosophy is built upon the idea that we can only control a small piece of our lives, and that everything outside of that should not be worried about.
There is no use trying to change the cards we are dealt, instead, there is only use in learning how to best play the cards in front of us.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius, Stoic Philosopher
This is not an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves. Quite the opposite. When hardships show up on our doorstep unannounced, there is no choice but to welcome it in, care for it, and turn that trial into a positive experience. As best we can.
Having graduation canceled gave me a chance to ease into post-grad life with a free trial.
In April, I got to live for a full month disconnected from campus and campus resources, working half-time, and as a half-time student. Instead of experiencing an abrupt shift from student to professional, I got to ease through the experience over the course of a month.
It taught me more about intentionality in relationships and that reaching out to people is the only way you’ll stay in touch with them. I got to practice a new budget, start doing some meal prep, and figure out some new skills for cooking and cleaning.
Overall, it gave me a refreshed introduction to post-grad life, and that has helped me greatly over the past three months since it happened.
Would I recommend having graduation canceled due to a global virus? Of course not. But it was the hand I was dealt, and whereas the hand looked pretty bad at first, there were some great lessons in there just asking to be learned.
It taught me some lessons that I’ll never forget.
Joel Sigrist is a writer, sports analyst, and media creator exploring several fields. Visit Joel’s website joelsigrist.com to find out more.