In October of last year, my boyfriend brought me to a beautiful overlook of an aspen grove and asked me to marry him.
By January of this year, we had completed all the necessary paperwork for our summer adventure: hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 2,600-mile thru-hike from Mexico to Canada. By February, we had wrapped up most of the wedding planning. And through it all, we had worked hard in our classes and extracurricular activities as our excitement for graduation grew.
My final year of college was shaping up to be a good one.
By May, we were scrambling to find a new apartment after cancelling all our PCT preparations, watching our graduation ceremonies online, and worrying that we would have to postpone our fall wedding.
Never in a million years did I expect to graduate in a pandemic – but entering university in the midst of one of the most divisive presidential races in U.S. history should perhaps have been a warning that the Class of 2020 would be in for a ride.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? If college taught me anything, it’s that I should never have had expectations to begin with. I expected to work in the finance world and ended up with degrees in film production and public relations. I expected to not date in college and I ended up with a ring on my finger. I expected to suffer from a fear of heights forever and I ended up rock climbing for three days a week in my university’s recreation center, for crying out loud!
The Class of 2020 faced a lot of unmet expectations in a blink of an eye. We lost the beautiful discussions only in-person classes can foster, and the walk across the stage some of us had envisioned for well over a decade. We faced rushed goodbyes and rescinded job offers. I understand and agree with my college moving to remote learning, but that doesn’t mean the choice wasn’t disappointing. Frustrating. Devastating.
I was fortunate to win a full-ride scholarship for college, which gave me financial stability through the pandemic. My fiancé and I decided to postpone our hike to next summer and spend this summer exploring internships and hobbies.
As a campus tour guide, I was still able to talk to prospective students through the magic of virtual meetings. I found much more time on my hands to dedicate to my coursework. I was able to enjoy virtual graduation ceremonies from the comfort of my own home, a drink in my hand and no fear of tripping in heels while walking across a stage.
The pandemic stopped me in my tracks. It forced me to take a look around and realize how much I had to be grateful for, which allowed me to feel… at peace.
That is truly something I did not expect.
I am a proud member of the Class of 2020. We faced the hardest test we’d ever been given, and it didn’t come from the classroom. The pandemic gave us perhaps the most important skill we needed when entering the real world: adaptability.
And if we can adapt to graduating during a pandemic – if we can keep our heads held high and accept so many of our expectations not being met – then there’s not much else that will stand in our way.
Leilani Osmundson is a recent CU Boulder graduate who lives in Superior.