Crossing the Stage

My best friend was supposed to walk the stage in a couple of weeks. A friend of mine were planning to visit him, and watch him ascend to the glory of black education.

He was supposed to receive his masters degree from Cornell University, shake hands with the president and wave to the crowd with his infectious smile. He was supposed to be gratified and validated in his long journey through academia. This was his moment. And the corona virus pandemic stole that opportunity from him.

 

Right now he’s just happy he’s finished. Exhausted from the long road, and wishing it would all come to an end. My best friend will be watching his commencement ceremony from his computer, his name announced and congratulated, then he will most likely close his laptop and chill.

There will be no pictures taken. No feeling of walking the stage and rightfully ascending to that upper echelon of education. No, there will be an empty feeling of, was this really worth it?

For so many college students this year, their commencement will be ia a computer screen. No thousands of people witnessing their ascension, no family screaming their name when they’re called.

No shaking the hands of the school president and receiving their notary of achievement. Potentially a virtual speech from the valedictorian and salutatorian. No, elongated, boring speech for commencement. No hangover from the night before.

No, just a sit down, in despair, possibly without their cap and gown, listening to one monotone speaker announce they have arrived. The agony in this moment cannot be shaped into words. All of the long nights filled with struggle, pain, fear, anxiety, will all be rewarded with a virtual announcement.

All that effort would feel wasted. And it is happening in real time. For so many graduates, this is a heart breaking experience that crushes the hopes of so many in the next following weeks. As our next set of future leaders turn their tassels the will start the chapters of new journeys on a sour note. COVID-19 has taken so much from so many. And this is another travesty in the grocery list of devastation it has caused.

Almost a year ago to the date, I walked across the stage to receive my Master’s Degree. I remember what it felt like, especially being a black man in America. I recall shrieking in relief when the president of my alma mater called my name.

I did this for two reasons, one because of the significance of being on a young African-American male with his master’s degree and receiving and in front of my family as well as so many friends and peers that at looked up to me end appreciated the work I was doing. Two, because it meant something for me to come from the inner city and to have achieved this type of Ascension.

Where I come from, there aren’t a lot of people that go out to receive a Bachelor’s or Master’s. As a matter of fact, not a lot of people receive their high school diploma where I’m from. I escaped a statistic and defied the cruel fate so many people that look like me face. So without hesitation, I cried out tears of joy. There’s no feeling like that to cross that stage, and to say that you graduated with a degree.

Be it a Bachelor’s, Masters, a Doctorate, even a high school diploma. That feeling of elevation, all the hard work completed. There is no replacement for that. So for those that are destined for ascension in the next few weeks, there is a massive amount of disappointment because they are being robbed of that experience due to COVID-19.

 For so many, something special was pilfered from them, and it hurts like hell. Crossing that stage is not just an accomplishment. Especially for people that come from nothing, it is a Rite of Passage. The feeling that you worked for your education, long nights, and tedious coursework resulting in that one moment. That moment where the cheers of thousands of people that went through what you went through.

In the midst of it all, you hear your family singing your name like a symphony. The choir of your friends rooting for you as you smile and shake people’s hands across that platform. The relief you feel because its all over, and you have something to show for it that holds tremendous value. The reward is not just getting your diploma, commencement is the final song in the concert of your academic journey. It’s supposed to end with a bang.

 This commencement feels like the concert ended abruptly, and that’s a shattering experience from the outside looking in. As someone that doesn’t know what this feels, I can only imagine the pain people are going through, and this is what I’m envisioning. 

 With all that being said,  to all those that would be crossing the stage be at this weekend last weekend or the next, know that even though you won’t cross the stage you will still accomplish something amazing. Even though COVID-19 is stripping you from this type of glory, your degree still means something. It’s not to say that you don’t deserve that feeling of turning your tassel. And walking that stage.

This is from one graduate to another telling you that you deserve the accolade that you worked so hard for.  You deserved that ascension. So once your name is called if you are on that call, celebrate. 

Call your friends your family, anyone has been on this ride with you, and enjoy that time with them. This is your moment, and you deserve the praise that comes with people appreciating you when you walk that stage. Even if you have to act it out via camera, do that. COVID-19 is not going to stop you from graduating, so don’t let it become the obstacle for your celebration. This is not to sit here and say that you can mitigate the pain you may be feeling.

This is someone who’s experienced what you went through to a certain degree and knows what it feels like to finally attain that achievement. Those are those that cannot walk the stage at this moment in time, no you are still appreciated,  so walk that stage. In a time where uncertainty and fear is all around us, this one moment, even though depressing is a shining light in your life right now. Let it become the beacon of hope for everyone else, as well as another star in the sky of your life. This is your moment, live in it.

Thank you for reading

A.I.R.

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