I have always been bad with expectations, both scared of setting them too high and scared that they would inevitably be disrupted, fail or be let down in some unexpected way. In high school, one of my friends would jokingly say, “Set your expectations low and you will always exceed them,” and though she was joking, I often would repeat that to myself, sometimes trying to not set expectation at all.
Throughout quarantine, I have had waves of grief for all the expectations I had set about graduation: senior sunset, senior tours, senior farewell in my service org. Being able to savor the last time I walked across campus as a student. It is a loss. But I am reminded amid this loss that there are many other losses occurring that deserve attention and action. I am not at a greater risk of infection because I am incarcerated. I am not an essential worker who is not getting the benefits they deserve, nor am I an essential worker at risk of deportation in spite of being labeled “essential” to the U.S. workforce. I am not in an unsafe household. I am housed. I am not a part of the communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic (black and brown communities and indigenous communities especially).
In these and countless other ways, I am privileged. I am also a soon-to-be LMU graduate, even though the circumstances are not the ones that I expected. The point of this is not to make anyone feel defensive for grieving losses like mine but as a reminder. Now more than ever, it is time to be with the people experiencing existential losses in whatever way we can be in this moment, to listen and learn how to best be for others. It is a time to pay attention to the way in which broken systems are amplifying this pandemic unevenly and support people fighting against that.
I didn’t know what to expect out of my undergraduate education; I didn’t expect to leave with such a changed world view. At least, I had no frame of experience that suggested that such a thing was even possible. I didn’t really know who Jesuits were or what they were about before I came to LMU, even though I had been raised Catholic. I came to the Bluff lost, though I didn’t know it. The freedom I found on the Bluff to be myself, the organizations I joined, the activities I participated in, the classes I took and friends I came to cherish all made me into the person I am today.
Each little thing added up and allowed me to find out who I am. I am a student who loves learning, even if/especially when the content is disruptive to my current understanding or uncomfortable. I am dedicated to social justice and equity. I am often scared, but I can act anyway. I am a sometimes-leader, an anytime-day-or-night friend. I am a reader and writer. I am strong and dedicated. I believe in God. I am a listener. I can be loud when I need to be. I am always working to be better.
Somehow, I received a gift I didn’t know I needed: a life-changing and life-giving four years. And it didn’t happen all at once but was embedded in every second, every high and low of my college career that took me to eight countries I had never been to before. And I am so thankful for every single person I have met at LMU, because it was here that I realized the massive importance of community. To each of you: thank you. You mean more to me than you could possibly know.
A part of me is scared to leave this home that I’ve found, the comfort that the familiar faces and places provide to me. I am leaving certainty for uncertainty in an economy with massive unemployment. I am stepping into another unknown. But I am leaving empowered with a new understanding of the world and my place in it. I am no longer so scared to set expectations, and I know that they have little weight in the end. I know what I believe in. I am not without fear, but I know that fear doesn’t freeze me anymore and that it doesn’t outweigh the countless, unimaginable, transformative outcomes that exist.