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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student


COLUMN: Cap, gown and mask


I remember it clearly; I was sitting in my sociology class with the news on full display for the whole class to see. The room was dark, and the Smart Board projected its bright light at us. The news headline read something like “COVID-19 pandemic underway.” Everyone was freaking out; students were staying home sick left and right, all bedridden with this same illness. The final day of school was two weeks out. What was happening and what would happen to us? 

I experienced a common theme throughout the entirety of my high school career – blissful ignorance. I eased through almost every class, went to all the parties and danced at all the dances. I had ideas of what I wanted to do when I graduated, but never thought about it while in school. One thing I realized you never fully understand is the weight of the world that’s waiting for you outside of that gymnasium full of friends and peers adorned in cap and gown.  

A bit dark, yes; however, I think it’s important to stress just how scared and uncertain all of us were. The pandemic shrouded us in doubt and threw a lot of our plans away. There was no going out, no touring campuses, no meeting with friends. I went into post-graduate life with a very undetermined mindset. I was still responsible; I applied to multiple schools, filled out all my papers and researched endless careers. What I didn’t do, though, was think about what I would be doing when I would be on my own, adulting for the first time, alone and in an ever-changing world.  

When I was living at home with my parents in high school, I was living in a bubble, my own little world. I feel this was a common occurrence among many people my age and in my friend groups. I always had chores, but you take for granted many of the little things that get done around you without your knowing. For example, that dirty dish I put in the sink magically got clean somehow; that dirt I dragged in got scrubbed off the floor while I was busy running to my room.  

After living on my own, I can confirm there is not in fact a magical cleaning fairy that visits every day and does your unwanted chores. Adulting is much more than the potential stress of a job, partner and mortgage; it’s the stress that comes with doing everything on your own for the first time in your life. This was not an easy burden. The weight of the world seemed to crash down upon me as I realized there wouldn’t be someone there to pick up my stuff and cook my meals. I was at a time in my life when I had to do all of this on my own without any guidance or supervision, and I felt so unprepared. 

As I graduated high school, I realized how little I really knew. One thing our education system does well is prepare you for the material you will learn in future classes or schooling. An arguably more important topic that I never learned in school was how to pay an electric bill or hook up a washer and dryer. There is a disconnect in our education system between life inside the book and outside. I wish I had someone during this time to firmly guide me and tell me that on top of my knowledge of the periodic table of elements, I will also need to know the correct temperature to set my thermostat and when to change it from heat to A/C.  

Many of us are in the same position. Consider your own place in life for a moment. Do you have similar fears? The reality of life after high school needs to be addressed more firmly in our lives, preferably by teachers and educators alike. Schools can begin by instituting classes specifically to give students knowledge of how to do the “little” but necessary things, like how to pay taxes, who to talk to about that, etc. Schools should also be addressing these issues and making them less taboo – we need to get rid of the stigma of “you will figure it out at some point in life” and start tackling these uncertainties head-on. Some people can handle these tasks just fine; many others, like myself, have a hard time adjusting to the colossal shadow of the adult world, for which, truthfully, I was not prepared.  

While the pandemic put my life and many others’ lives on pause, I feel it made me more prepared for the rest of what the world has to throw at me. It was a strenuous time, and one where I didn’t know if I’d come out on the other side in one piece. While I still feel like part of me went missing during COVID-19, I found new aspects of myself to start working on, and it truly shaped me into the person I am today. It's been four years since I graduated, and I still haven’t quite figured it out yet, but really, who has? 

Vincent Winkler (he/him) is a freshman studying sociology. 

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