Graduating into a Pandemic

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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Fear, anxiety, and a general state of stress over the thought of 'adulting'. 

These are the typical feelings of new graduates, most of whom fall into the age range of 22 to 26 years old and are just starting to find their place in the world. These feelings would usually be accompanied with a sense of joy - and perhaps a touch of apprehension - but joy, nonetheless. 

At risk of sounding dramatic, the class of 2020 would likely experience only the former three emotions. Graduating into a pandemic is scary, especially when so many moving parts are happening all at once, most not in the favour of a bunch of fresh-faced inexperienced workers with a bunch of idealistic dreams and expectations of how a 'first job' should be like. 

But to hell with that, because this pandemic isn't about us (though it sometimes does feel like so, due in part to the echo chambers we live in). 

This pandemic is not good for anybody, though we may even very well be one of the least vulnerable groups around (of course, pending actual scientific evidence). I'm not encouraging everyone to start going around doing crazy things, but it's about damn time we stopped moping around feeling sorry ourselves.

Yes, the economy is on the brink of recession (and probably actually already in the middle of one). Those with jobs are anxious about job security, while those still searching for one are getting turned away due to virus-related hiring freezes. Listening to a lecture over a video-conferencing call, across time zones for some, is not the most effective way to learn. And while all that is going on, we still... have to graduate. However, so many of us are demanding for things that can only be described as complete privileges (yes I'm talking about the ability to classify modules as pass-fail instead of having the letter-grade reflected), and complaining about their limitations after they've been bestowed upon us. 

Sure, I can't speak for every single one of us. There are people who are genuinely affected by the Covid-19 situation, such as international students separated from their families, or students who need to help supplement their family's income in these trying times, just to name a few. My heart goes out to them, and I hope that the measures put in place in the respective universities do help lighten their loads in some way. 

But if a majority of us are well enough to be creating memes about a video-conferencing software, or at least, sharing them, we're probably in a privileged-enough position to be level-headed about decisions put in place by school management, or even the government (yes, I'm also talking about not going out to party in crowded areas). If we're in school for an education, maybe we should just put in our best to get a degree that isn't undermined with a transcript half-filled with pass-fail grades? 

To put things into perspective, people all over the world are fighting for their last breaths, hospitals are getting over-crowded, and so many doctors are living the reality of dealing with our favourite ethical problem we'd joke about but never thought we'd ever confront in real life i.e. the trolley dilemma but think "elderly, vulnerable people" on one side and "younger people with more potential" on the other. And here we are, trying to skirt around academic systems and take advantage of the whole situation. 

Graduating into a pandemic is not the most ideal situation, it really isn't. But no one asked for this to happen. Let's celebrate that we're actually achieving a life milestone amidst all these, whether or not it'll be accompanied with an actual physical convocation. And when that's done, let's get back to living in this pandemic together with the rest of the world. Because people are actually dying in this pandemic, and we should be counting our blessings we're living, much less graduating. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not proposing all of us start doing charity work and helping vulnerable groups or anything of that sort. However, I do think that with our literacy and processing capabilities, the least we can do is to help quell fears and stamp out the sharing of fake news especially amongst our parents' generation. Also perhaps, not add to unproductive conversations that only stack up on the stresses of others. 

Of course, with all that said, compassion and news fatigue are also incredibly real issues. Let's all please take care of ourselves in this period, and know when to stop reading the news when it gets overwhelming. We got this. I'm confident the world will pull through, but it's really on us to determine how fast or slow we do. 

(On a sidenote, I did not expect this to be my first-ever post of 2020, but I knew I had to write this as I've never felt this strongly about a topic in a long while. Hopefully I didn't unknowingly conceal a long rant of my frustrations into a deluge of fake-positivity, because I genuinely feel this way, but I apologize if I did.)
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