Goodbyes You Weren’t Ready For & Won’t Get To Say

We all knew it was coming when Penn State said it was moving classes online for at least three weeks. We all knew when Ohio State, Indiana, and Rutgers extended their own remote periods. We all knew as the daily reports about the coronavirus got progressively worse.

And just like that, it happened. The semester (and for seniors, their time at Penn State) all but ended with a whimper when the university announced Wednesday that it was canceling all in-person classes for the remainder of the semester. It was the right decision, but it still stung.

Senior years were cut short. Goodbyes were left unsaid. Names that were supposed to be memorialized forever were left off of plaques at Cafe. And so many memories were never made.

We knew it was inevitable, as events like Blue-White and SPA concerts were all canceled. But even with more than a week of knowing the end was coming had already passed, I’m still struggling to let it sink in that my time as a Penn State student is over.

Sure, I still have six weeks of Zoom lectures before I am officially a Penn State graduate. And I am grateful that the university seems committed to hosting commencement at a later date, unlike Michigan, which canceled its ceremonies outright and send it’d looking into honoring graduates in the future. But this is not how things were supposed to end.

Moving on from college and entering the “real world” is something that graduating seniors grapple with every year. Usually, it comes after weeks of existential crises, celebration, and monumental “lasts” as they slowly peel off the BandAid that is college. That process normally leaves a scar that’s noticeable, but has started to heal. Today, it feels like that BandAid has been torn off, leaving an open, exposed wound still vulnerable to world outside of Happy Valley.

On top of the normal anxieties that come with graduation, we live in a world that’s come to a halt due to a pandemic and are entering a workforce that is being ravaged by an apparently imminent recession. Not being able to bask in the glory of senior year withers in comparison to all that, but what was already a challenging time seems more unsettling than ever.

I’m someone who likes a sense of finality. I had always envisioned embarking on my own “farewell tour” like the ones I had seen so many friends embark on during their last few weeks as students: hitting each bar one last time, spending time with all the different people you’ll no longer live a five-minute walk away from, and saying “Why not? Now’s the time to enjoy myself!” about traditions like the Mifflin Streak.

Now, my final days as a college student are being spent in my parents’ house, half paying attention to Zoom lectures and watching the numbers of death totals and cases of the coronavirus climb.

I’m sure the people reading this post are running through all the things they had wanted to do one last time and now won’t get the chance. For me, without even noticing, I ran an Onward State meeting for the final time. Spent one last Thursday afternoon at a nearly empty Doggie’s. Instead of working on a list of features that I had wanted to write before graduating, I’ve now become consumed with informing students about a truly historic moment in both university and world history. In a few weeks, instead of ringing the gong in Atherton Hall when I finally submit my thesis that has been nearly 18 months in the making, I will unceremoniously upload it and probably close my computer with nothing more than a sigh of relief that it’s finally complete.

And in the midst of my own pity party, my mind wanders to the athletes who won’t be escorted by their parents on Senior Day. And the Movin’ On director who won’t see her yearlong vision come to fruition. And the UPUA president who won’t get the chance to hit her final gavel at the annual past-midnight farewell meeting. And to the friend who, while battling a series of mental and physical issues throughout college, always talked about how “All I want is to walk across that stage of the BJC on May 9 and get that big, bad, beautiful diploma and know I made it.”

So much was left undone for the Class of 2020. And moving on to the next stage of life seems as frightening as ever.

I would’ve liked to have had two more months of fun after four years of striving for grades, internships, and gainful employment. However, I’m happy with my time at Penn State and everything I was able to accomplish and experience ever since arriving at 108 Beaver Hall as a lanky, baby-faced 18-year-old with a Kan Jam set, intent on earning his way into the Paterno Fellows Program.

At this time, I’m more grateful than ever for the last 3.67 years as a Penn State student — from the football games to the impromptu pitstops at McLanahan’s for a beer to the wildly unique things that truly can only happen at Penn State to the many late nights spent working with some of the greatest people in the world on this website.

I don’t know that I had appreciated each one of these things in the moment. But now that I’ve been deprived of my last two months of them, I’m happy for the memories I was able to make. I hope my classmates find a similar solace and the students lucky enough to return for one, two, or three more years take joy in each one.

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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected]. All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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