WEST DUMMERSTON — At age 22 I did not intend to be living in my parents' basement in West Dummerston Village directly behind the dying business that is the U.S. Post Office, of all places. I was planning on beginning my career in sports communication. But here I am, lying on my childhood bed, listening to the hum of the dehumidifier.
On what was to be my commencement day, May 16, I watched a few videos from Bradley University and was officially conferred my degree cum laude in social media marketing and sports communication from the flatlands of Peoria, Illinois.
There's lots of avenues my degree can lead me to, yet essentially all of my varied and deep experience is in athletics; I was lucky enough to intern with Vermont's only professional sports team last summer: the short-season single-A Lake Monsters in Burlington. But here we are, with sports in limbo. And businesses aren't exactly growing, so my consulting, project management, writing, and digital engagement skills aren't, let's say, in high demand.
As the sports editor of my university newspaper, I was at the editorial board meeting before spring break. I was the only person who thought we wouldn't be back to finish out the semester. I trusted my intuition.
For spring break, I drove to Nashville, Tennessee and partied at various five-floor honky-tonks. That's the last time I did anything truly social. I should have been sitting courtside at the NCAA Tournament covering the Bradley's men's basketball team, but the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.
Although during my college years I lost touch with seemingly everyone I once knew in southern Vermont, I am overjoyed to be back in my home state away from the 'rona.
In mid-July, my neighbor told me that this whole situation is “very temporary.”
I quickly corrected her. It's just “temporary.”
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My goal for the last five months has been to keep busy, because that's what I did in college: balancing five part-time jobs and 17 credit hours most semesters. I know for certain that I am eager to begin my career, whatever that is.
When it's all said and done, a university experience costs roughly $165,000. Was it a waste of money? Right now, I'd respond with a strong maybe.
One of my childhood friends did not pursue higher education post–high school. She has a salaried job and seems content with life.
Me, on the other hand?
I have waves of sadness, anger, annoyance, boredom, a feeling of going through the motions, a lack of motivation, and jealousy. But I'm also thankful to be alive. My parents both know people who have succumbed to the virus.
As a graduation present, my father gave me a car. I've thought about driving away. Should I do so and see what happens? Even though I do want a fresh start, that's probably not a wise idea, especially given that I'm living comfortably with few expenses.
And, although the uncertainty of this time is hard to manage, I appreciate the beauty of Vermont.
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The pandemic is obviously very much unexpected, but how can someone who thought they were headed toward a better future now be stuck living like a 16-year-old?
Sure, it'll be a great story for my grandchildren, but I'm not too sure I'm going to meet my wife around here nor impress her and/or her family with successes.
This is definitely a time for relationships to deepen. I'm not thriving in that aspect, unless you include hanging with parents who are both retired and often lack clear focus. Although it has been nice to walk with my mom, kayak with my pops, and show them up in the kitchen with spices.
For now, I'll keep pushing on and be a sandwich artist at The Works Bakery Café, conduct research for this publication, and write articles to remain sharp.
Also, as every college graduate with a grasp on a life plan should, I am reaching out to professionals I hope to emulate. LinkedIn, Twitter, you name it - social media is ultra useful right now.
My trust in the world might be low, but my intuition tells me something positive will come my way soon.