We want to take a moment to clarify this piece is intended to highlight the specific experiences and grief of seniors at Luther College and beyond. We recognize the health, safety and struggles of all people, especially the marginalized, oppressed, or vulnerable in our country and globally is the most important priority amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The intention of our reflections is not to draw attention away from that priority, but to acknowledge some of the emotions experienced by Luther College seniors at this time.
For many seniors, fully processing the loss of our last two months of college requires incredible grit to muddle through the mess. All of it.
Muddling through the mess means digging into the dark space many of us may have been distracting ourselves from—the depthful space of shifting futures and grieving time that’s been lost. Calling on grit has caused me to look critically at my own college experience, bringing with it a sense of unexpected guilt. Guilt over the times at Luther that I didn’t want to be there ... that I was worn out. Even the days that I became bored of the ordinary, were days that I sometimes wished Luther away. Now I’m left with bitterness that my precious college days are only a memory, and that I’d give anything for more time.
For many seniors, processing any if-I-had-known’s, wasted-times and could-have-beens not only requires profound grit and introspective honesty, but beckons the gifts of grace and compassion from those around us.
We deserve grace … and a lot of it. From ourselves and from others. This spring was supposed to carry us into our next chapter of life, but instead we have collapsed into it. This is completely new wilderness to navigate, and we have very few tools to do so.
Grace to process how quickly and drastically our lives have been uprooted.
Just a little over a month ago, everything was as ordinary and fun and stressful and perfect as preparing to enter the ‘real world’ should be, all of which was taken in just in a matter of days. Many of us were planning on living and working independently, travelling or moving to new places, constructing lives for ourselves that we choose ... Now, many of us live in the grips of uncertainty, unemployed and/or dependent on others for the foreseeable future, with no celebration of what we did or knowledge of what comes next. Furthermore, most students are expected to continue with classes, responsibilities, and general “life as it was” from a distance, even though nothing is as it was.
There was so much more closure to witness, to bear, to fully feel that now hangs in a distant place of lost hope ... looming in our minds with all the questions like, how will we tie these loose ends? Of all the time for something this terrifying and horrible to happen throughout the world and in our college community, why now?
These questions are not meant to be a source of anguish or pity. I don’t think these questions are even meant to be answered. But I believe the questions need to be asked, in order to process wholeheartedly and propel forward into genuine healing.
As confusing, heartbreaking, stressful or exhausting as this transition has been, I do believe there is a lesson to be learned through our lost time: light can lead us toward the vision of love and reunion promised for us—and that we can still give each other.
Focusing on our gratitude can serve as a constant and collective reminder that we are alive to love and to be loved. We were brought together through Luther to connect with our planet, to learn within community, to pursue justice and to stick together—despite our distance now.
Gratitude for what we’ve had can emit new glimmers of hope; new sparks of intellectual fire, new dreams for who we are as a class and as individuals. Gratitude is not about veiling the difficulties of life as it is now, it’s about the assuredness that we will always have access to the resilience we share as a class, and derive power from what we’ve learned.
Gratitude shifts my perspective to knowing that while I can’t have many of my ‘lasts’ I had so many amazing ‘firsts’ and ‘middles’ to carry me through. I can’t change what’s been taken from me, I can delight in what’s been given.
Each wave of personal and professional fear loses some of its power when I consider the brilliance of what we, the Class of 2020, got to DO and got to BE for others in our community.
The love given to us and through us at Luther will always arrive, and always outweigh any doubts, distance, longing or time that comes between us and our days spent there.
True gratitude grants us the grit and the grace to acknowledge the beauty within grief. It does not require us to diminish, distract, avoid, or pretend. Instead, gratitude calls us to be the observer of our own hearts, and allow ourselves to see that at the birthplace of sadness and grief is also profound love. Gratitude can push us all forward and inward, connected in this time of disconnect to this sacred truth: none of us are alone.