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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2020 will not have the traditional graduation ceremony in Sanford Stadium. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

At the beginning of this year, I pre-planned my nostalgic last-semester-of-college moments.

I already felt grateful all year for my mundane routines — Friday nights playing pool in my favorite bar or Saturday mornings drinking coffee with my roommate. I looked forward to the bittersweet series of “lasts” I would spend with friends who felt like family in a town that felt like home.

I planned perfectly timed tears because I wanted to take a few moments to fully appreciate how much I’ve enjoyed my cozy life in this college town — and because I’m a dramatic English major.

However, my regularly scheduled nostalgia never aired. Instead, a global pandemic turned my spring programming into gray static right after spring break. The reality that I was leaving my home of the last four years crashed down on me, leaving no time to perform my extended goodbye.

Instead of worrying if I could finish a paper before going to a Georgia Theatre show, I now worry about rent payments for an apartment I haven’t even been staying in because I lost my job as a student worker. I worry about how I am going to enter a job market in shambles or how any media company will have enough money to hire me.

I worry about friends who have also lost jobs and opportunities. And for some of those graduating with me, I don’t know when I’ll be able to see or hug them again.

This bittersweet spring became simply bitter in just a few days. The nervous excitement of graduation turned into anxious fear. Any tears I shed are no longer part of a romantic farewell, just salty reminders of the unfairness of everything.

I am grateful for my situation, of course. I am not fighting for my life in a hospital or hoping for a loved one’s recovery. Though I did lose my job, my parents can still help me. My biggest loss of the coronavirus pandemic is much smaller than others’.

But in the past six weeks, I think I’ve gone through the seven stages of grief about losing the last couple months of college. I’m still teetering between “depression” and “hope and acceptance,” but every day I find more aspects of my life to appreciate.

The pandemic has forced me — and all of us — to slow down and think about what we find important in our lives. I have family and friends who are healthy and love me, and I’m more confident than ever that I want to be a journalist as I’ve seen the importance of transparency and information in this national crisis.

Instead of juggling my part-time job, The Red & Black and classwork, I’ve spent sunny afternoons chatting with my mom and doing puzzles in my pajamas. Though my grandmother is disappointed neither me nor my brother will have a graduation ceremony, she’s safe and healthy.

I may not be in Athens, but I still report remotely on a town whose community support for each other in this crisis makes me proud.

I can’t pretend I’m completely OK with missing the pomp and circumstance that goes along with graduating college or having to pack up my beloved apartment sooner than planned, but there’s still so much in my life for which I can be thankful.

And maybe I’ll take a trip to Athens and walk through the Arch on May 8 in lieu of throwing my cap in Sanford Stadium.

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