Issues,  Law School

What Does it Mean to Not Walk the Stage?

I’ve been thinking a lot of about what it means for class of 2020 to not have a traditional graduation ceremony. To not get to put on the regalia, walk across the stage, and collect your diploma, as family and friends applaud you. … I don’t think any words of comfort I provide will really comfort, I know that. It sucks.

This entire situation is so horrible and upsetting. In addition to losing out on these milestones, suddenly moving to remote-learning has augmented the gap of privilege and wealth between you and your classmates. I know it’s tough for 1Ls and 2Ls as well. I think about what it would have meant for me to leave campus to study and I think about how I wouldn’t have had access to wifi or a quiet space to do my work. While schools are scrambling to figure out best, next steps, those decisions often forget about the needs of first-gen students… I know 1Ls and 2Ls are seriously impacted by these changes, but my heart hurts for what graduating 3Ls are losing because of these pandemic.

I know it’s easy for people to shrug or compare losses, to say that not having a ceremony isn’t that big of a deal, but you’re allowed to feel differently. Law school graduation is just such a milestone. One that allows you to take a moment and take it all in–all the hard work and support systems that got you there. I’m so sorry about that loss and it’s completely normal and healthy to feel gutted and sad about this (regardless of all the other things happening)–you’re allowed to feel disappointment.

So, what I want to emphasize is confirmation that even if you don’t walk a stage, you still earned your diploma and there is no deadline by which you need to stop acknowledging or celebrating your accomplishment. Have your grad party in the fall, complete with the baddie photoshoot! Please don’t let the shutdown tamper the excitement and joy you should feel in earning your J.D. The same goes for all of you that passed the February bar and are soon licensed and ready to go. In this “new normal” no one will think twice at you celebrating “late.” And while I know it won’t necessarily feel the same, please do think of some way to celebrate yourself because this accomplishment is important and worthy of recognition.

Remind yourself that you’ve now earned a spot in a profession where we make up less than 2% of lawyers. Think of all the hard work you put in during law school: the late nights, the fun nights, the money, the sacrifice, the microaggressions, readings that never seemed to end, the questioning, the adrenaline when getting cold called, the frustrations all mixed with discovering/confirming a passion for a practice area. Think of all those moments and decisions for yourself that brought you mere weeks from graduation; that dedication to yourself deserves a celebratory moment. I really hope you get it, even if it’s months away. <3