by D’amy Steward
This piece was originally published by the Coronado Eagle Journal March 27, 2020.
My name is D’amy Steward and I am a member of the class of 2020 – the class that lost their final spring semester. What does this loss mean? For many of us, we heard news of the Coronavirus and its impact on our senior year while on spring break. The immediate impact: missed goodbyes to friends, professors, and advisors; missing our final walk to class across the quad; a final time studying in the library; running into friends randomly on campus abruptly terminated; a premature last sporting event; and most significantly, a graduation that will not be. These and many more “lasts” have passed before I even have a chance to process it. The feeling of closure on the past four years of my life swept away. In the grand scheme of things, I realize this is insignificant given the global crisis we are facing. However, in the moment when you have only a few hours to move out of your dorm and take your last walk around campus at 1:00am to reflect and relish memories one last time before driving back home to Coronado… it feels like your world is crashing down around you.
I attend Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, double majoring in Biology and Environmental Science with concentrations in Ecology and Marine Science and Conservation. As I was preparing to leave for spring break, I said “see you later” to friends as I drove them to the airport or as they left the dorms, fully anticipating I would see then in a week’s time. I would give anything to be able to go back and hug these friends and take a moment to express in person just how much of an impact they had on me during our time at Duke. I would give anything be able to personally thank the professors who helped me advance to where I am today, guiding me through my college career and beyond. To be able to walk across campus and appreciate every little detail, from the way the sun reflects off the windows of West Union (our dining hall) to witnessing the beauty of nature’s colors in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens to listening to the Chapel bells ring one last time, would be a gift. Words cannot describe the feeling of loss I have realizing all of this is gone and my career at Duke is over. Duke allowed me to travel the world for my studies and exposed me to opportunities and career paths I could never have imagined. I savored every minute I was fortunate enough to experience. All of us knew the end was near with spring semester halfway over, but we never could have predicted this abrupt ending.
Speaking for all the class of 2020 seniors – we have had a ride of a lifetime in our respective experiences and more than a few things in common. For example, my first day of preschool in Coronado coincided with 9/11, an event that devastated and changed our nation forever. Now, in 2020 our senior year ends starkly and without ceremony due to COVID-19. Historical events have impacted my generation from an early age. While not the traditional path we might have preferred, it is a path fate has decreed; we will forever be bonded by the experience and, hopefully, all learn and grow from the shared experience. Now more than ever, we must unite and support each other and, as a global generation, set our sights on addressing global turmoil.
To all the seniors, this is not the end, it is simply a tumultuous prologue to the next stage of our lives. Remember the good times and be grateful for what you had. Take to heart lessons learned in and out of the classroom. Each day going forward look to the future with hope, appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of others and yourself, and do not undervalue the experiences that have shaped you.
So many clichés come to mind as I close. Perhaps the most fitting: life is what you choose to make of it. I am confident the Class of 2020 will garner strength – and, hopefully, wisdom – from events that have thus far shaped us and leverage both to positively impact the world we are inheriting.