If we were having coffee, I would tell you that today would have been the induction ceremony for my university’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, a national, all-discipline honor society. It looks like a beautiful day for it, too, and I would have loved the chance to go out, dress up a little, take pictures on campus around Iowa State landmarks near the Memorial Union. As someone who has been told she’s an overachiever all her life, but has never felt like she’s actually achieved much, being chosen to be part of an honor society feels like a kind of validation.
And I know that something like this might not matter in the grand scheme of things. I know that being part of PKP isn’t necessary or sufficient to be a good person in the world. But when I got the invitation to join, I was on a high for a while. When I’m on that high, I feel like I can be my best self, and my best self is good. My best self is on top of her to-do list, writing things she loves, being helpful to her community, and generally reveling in having a good time.
When I’m not on that high, I try to be softer, accept messiness, and take things step by step. In other words, I still try to be good, and I try not to let my thoughts linger on the ways in which that good falls short of great.
An honor society induction is one small, niche milestone of the many milestones people will be missing due to isolation and quarantine. Graduations: cancelled. Thesis and dissertation defenses: done over video conferencing. Birthdays: celebrated at home. Weddings: postponed at best. Coming-of-age traditions: perhaps creatively reimagined, but it’s not the same as gathering loved ones together.
And underneath these milestones are cracks in more foundational aspects of living: people losing jobs, losing livelihoods, having to put enormous effort into making a switch in skills as some jobs have to switch to digital spaces. People putting their lives on the line as they work essential positions that keep the rest of the world running. In that grand scheme of things, missing a milestone doesn’t feel that big. There’s a greater shift that is happening. The benchmarks that used to matter will be radically redefined.
That doesn’t make missing them any less disappointing. That doesn’t make it easier to pick up and continue on, when that milestone would have been, maybe, some kind of respite, or at least a foundation from which to leap.
Are you missing any milestones because of the pandemic? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to celebrate them with you.
Header image is from January 2020.