[OPINION] Pandemic pause: An open letter to the graduating batch of 2020
The pause seems to occur in each phase of a person’s academic journey, though its manifestation varies every time.
We first encounter it when we start learning how to write, connecting dots that form the letters of the alphabet. At the end of a horizontal line, we momentarily stop to examine whether the succeeding dots will create a vertical or a lateral pattern.
As we become more critical as learners, we find out how pauses can actually alter the meaning of a sentence. A classic example: “I like eating, dogs, and surfing the web," is different from “I like eating dogs and surfing the web.” In public speaking, we are also taught the importance of pausing when we recite lengthy sentences, as it allows our listeners to clearly understand our arguments.
As for this year's graduating students, COVID-19 has introduced another manifestation of the pause: the pandemic pause.
Our educational journeys are now on pause. Classroom interactions have been temporarily stopped as online learning methods take over. All our plans for taking licensure examinations and giving job applications have become uncertain. If everything was normal, we would have been counting the days to our graduation. However, our current setup is making us wait a little longer. (READ: No graduation rites in the country during coronavirus pandemic – Briones)
This waiting is emotionally taxing. There are days when we look forward to the future with hope, but there are also days when we lose sight of our goals. We become lost about which road to take. However, these trying times can also reveal something about our soon-to-be professions.
Many workers, in one way or another, are frontliners in this crisis. Health workers devote all their time to make sure that COVID-19 patients win their battles against the disease. At a time when human rights can be easily violated, we see lawyers fighting for vulnerable sectors, against a system that lacks compassion. We see people from the social services doubling their efforts to make sure no Filipino citizen is left behind in terms of help. Every day, we witness the hardships and the victories of these workers during this pandemic.
These realities should allow us, the graduating batch of 2020, to rethink our reasons for choosing our career paths. Some of us might have only been pressured by peers and family to enrol in our degree programs, but it’s not yet too late to find meaning in our future profession. In these times, we should allow ourselves to draw inspiration from all selfless workers, whatever sector they may belong. May we take this time to reflect on the things they have done for others, so that we may carry on their bravery when all this is finally over.
When that day comes
Sooner or later, we will be part of the post-pandemic workforce that will try to rebuild whatever is left by this crisis. Greater challenges await in each profession as we transition to the new normal.
Teachers will have to deal with flexible learning methods, since online discussions will not only be a supplement to learning, but will be fully incorporated in our educational system. Journalists will have to lean more about using digital platforms to deliver news, which may result in greater instances of disinformation from trolls. Psychiatrists and psychologists will have to advocate for normalizing mental health checkups even more, since more people will be prone to depression and anxiety. When we graduate, we will be on the front lines, too. Our transition from students to professionals will be harder. We will be tested; we will be bent.
So as we wait for that day to come, we have to anchor ourselves to public service as early as now. We should aim to be lawyers, teachers, journalists, nurses, and social workers for the people, even when there isn't a pandemic.
The current crisis may have paused our plans for the future, but it will somehow shape it. We may be waiting longer than expected, but that most awaited moment will arrive. Padayon, Batch 2020! – Rappler.com
Vincent Verzola, 21, is a graduating accountancy student of the University of Saint Louis-Tuguegarao.