Whoa, it’s over?

I’m having a bit of a rough day today.

I’ve been surprised at how my anxiety didn’t skyrocket after the COVID-19 pandemic started. I’ve felt fairly even keeled for the past eight weeks as I’ve stayed at my parents’ house. I was disappointed, of course, when my trips to Beaver Creek and Denmark were canceled, but I knew it was for good reason and I didn’t want to bring anything back to my parents, who both have asthma. Like my classmates and professors, I’ve trudged through the transition to virtual classes, which wrapped up this week. I’ve cherished the time I’ve had with my family, as I don’t know when else in my adult life I will get this kind of time with them. I’ve reached out to old friends. My sister and I have started doing yoga at the end of every workday. I keep moving and functioning and working. (I will admit little hiccoughs pop up that make me more frustrated or angry than they should, but I also recognize the true source of my emotions and find a way to move on.)

But today, I came across this snapshot of a scene in Parks and Recreation and its message stunned me into stillness.

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I wasn’t too upset about the cancellation of my graduations (the first of which was supposed to be this weekend). I’m not good at sitting silently in a crowd for an extended period of time (assemblies were always absolute nightmares for me). Graduations are supposed to be the celebration of hard work, but my imposter syndrome always keeps me from feeling accomplished (something I undoubtedly need to work on). Moreover, I will not miss school. I love learning but hate assignments, hate grades, and hate the seemingly never-ending slog.

However, the loss of time with my friends—some truly wonderful people that I have been lucky enough to meet over this time—has slowly been gnawing through me. I’ve been accused of being robotic before—I generally hate feeling feelings, and as such I stubbornly refuse to do so, until they build up to the point that I am overwhelmed and want to sit under my desk or in a closet until they subside.

I have faith that I will not lose these new friends, but the dawning realization that has slowly arisen over the past few weeks that it will be a long time before we will ever be together—or that we may never all be in one place—brings a strong physical reaction. A lump in the throat, pressure behind the eyes and in the chest, a knot in the stomach. Graduate school, for many reasons, was at times unbearable for me, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it if it hadn’t been for these truly lovely people.

One of these friends has noted that is acceptable to feel grief over canceled graduations and postponed weddings and the other losses we’ve suffered even though our minds may convince us they are fairly frivolous compared to the extreme chaos that reigns outside our homes. I knew she was right but also felt that this thought didn’t apply to me—I’m sympathetic to my friends who are feeling these feelings, but they don’t resonate with me. Events come and go and I love to be a part of them but I am quick to move to the next thing. People, however, stick with me, and over the years I have built a strong fear of losing them. The loss of any friendship plagues me without end, popping up in my mind when I least expect it. The ease with which someone who seems to be ever-present can suddenly disappear from one’s life causes me great pain. I love new friends deeply after a very short period of time, and I find the return of that love to be the most rewarding thing I can experience, even as I fear that it will be extinguished without any notice. Even as my friends devote time to me, my brain tells me that if I vanished from their lives, they would be unaffected, and so the idea of introducing physical distance brings about sudden concern and, to be honest, despair.

And so that brings me to the thing I really want to say after all this exposition.

To the wonderful people who have come into my life over the past three years, I want you to know how grateful I am to know you. You are all astonishingly brilliant and kind and talented. Every day of school I was reminded of your grace and wits and brains and I have fostered such a great admiration for each and every one of you. I will work so very hard to maintain our friendships, and I know that while there will be gaps of time between our future time together, I will keep you in my thoughts and am so excited to see where your futures take you. Thank you for keeping me from totally falling apart. Thank you for bringing joy into my life. Thank you for being you. I love you, and I’ll see you someday. So much will happen between now and then, and it’s all gonna be great.