Every day, around 6:19 a.m., I am woken up by the sound of a jump rope whipping the wooden floor of my home. My brother is jumping away in the living room as if no one is around, or much less, asleep. I take a big sigh and bury my head in my pillow, something that I’ve found myself doing much of in the past few weeks. I lay there, stare at my blank white walls and sigh some more. “Another day of quarantine,” I think to myself.

It’s important to keep a daily routine, even in the midst of these unprecedented times. I try to do the same thing every day: I get up from my cozy bed, brush my teeth, shower, throw on some comfortable clothes and socks. I walk over to the kitchen, where I make a cup of coffee and walk back to my room. I open up my laptop to get started on the countless things I have to do.

The small, but present motivation I had coming into my senior year at the University of Arizona has completely vanished. What kept me going was knowing that graduation in May would come and all the hard work would be paid off. Now, I can’t say that is the case.

A few weeks ago, I received emails from the university regarding how this pandemic would change the course of things. One of the emails was asking me to not return to campus, a place that I had given countless hours to, a place that I found comfort in, no matter how much stress it brought me. I left the campus and my classes that I have come to love on March 6, not knowing that I wouldn’t be able to return again. How could I have known? How could anyone have known?

Sure, we had heard of the virus that was sweeping the world by storm before then, but not to this extreme. When least expected, classes moved online, grocery stores were raided and people were fighting over toilet paper. My mind couldn’t comprehend what was happening as I scrolled through Twitter and saw the world go up in flames.

A few days later, another email from the university titled “Commencement Update” lit up my phone. I hesitantly opened it to read what I had been expecting, but certainly not wanting. “I am so sorry to have to announce yet one more difficult but necessary decision regarding the most important event we have on campus all year, Commencement,” the university president wrote. With this simple sentence, everything that I had been working towards became something I would never get to experience. Amidst all the chaos surrounding me, this has been one of the hardest pills to swallow.

I am normally not one to ‘celebrate’ myself or attract attention in any form. I’d rather keep to myself in any and all situations. However, there was something about graduation in May that led me to be okay with celebrating and bringing attention to the work I’ve done. Now, not only has it been taken away from me but also from thousands of others who have worked just as much, if not more.

On one hand, I have friends and family expressing their sympathy for how it all played out. On the other, I hear people saying, “It’s just a graduation. You should be grateful you’re healthy and safe.” And I agree. I am healthy, I have a roof over my head and I’m safe. But my pain is not solely rooted in the fact that I won’t have a graduation ceremony. It has never been about photos, celebrations, or ceremonies. It’s way deeper than that: it’s about finally being proud of myself for accomplishing a goal and hearing someone say they’re proud of me, too. It’s about believing in myself and being seen for my accomplishments. 

As I sit here trapped in these four white walls, I can’t help but feel an immense sadness overcome me. I realize that I can’t rely on my family, on others or on a ceremony to be proud of myself. I need to find that all on my own. Who knows, maybe that breakthrough will occur during this period of isolation or maybe it will occur when I’m older, if I’m lucky enough to continue getting to know the world. But I know one day it will come. For now, I will continue to stay home and continue to be woken up by that annoying jump rope.