Sunday, May third was sunny and 70. I went for a run on the four-mile loop from my parents’ house and around Staring Lake early that afternoon. The buds were starting to pop then, bursts of green and pink and white amidst branches that have been bare since October. Lots of people were on the trail—bikers and runners and walkers, a few dogs. I gave them all a wide berth, running on the dirt and grass to get as far away from them as possible. I can’t run wearing my mask, my breath gets all hot and humid and I feel like I’m suffocating. So, I always make sure I’m as close to six feet as I can be away from other exercisers.
On my street, close to home, I stopped to walk the only hill on the entire loop. Despite running most days since quarantine began, I’m still used to the flat trails in Fargo/Moorhead, and the few Eden Prairie hills make me wheeze and puff and feel like giving up. Once home, I showered in my parents’ basement bathroom that I suppose is now mine, and gathered my mother and father in our backyard with my laptop and an extension cord for my college commencement ceremony watch-party.
My virtual graduation from Concordia College was short, less than an hour. Our president spoke, so did the dean and two students, then the list of names of every graduating senior went by in what can only be described as the end credits of a movie. Our names, hometowns, and majors scrolled from the bottom to the top of my screen in seconds. My mother, father, and I barely saw mine before it disappeared. The Hymn to Concordia played when the names were done and then it was over—the conclusion of my four years of college finished in a surreal conglomeration of speeches and a list of names on my laptop that I watched in my backyard. I shut the laptop and unplugged the extension cord, feeling defeated and confused.
One of our student speakers talked about resilience—how all of us graduating are resilient for completing our college careers during a pandemic. But, in that moment after watching my virtual commencement, and now, after being a college graduate for two weeks, I do not feel resilient. I have not survived COVID-19. I am enduring it because I have to. I am anxious. I am depressed. I am a fresh college graduate entering a world plummeting into economic and social disaster, and the only thing I can bring myself to do is run. I run, and I think about how nothing will ever be the same.
But maybe resilience is more than surviving and thriving in traumatic circumstances. Maybe it is acknowledging the trauma and the grief. Maybe it is accepting that nothing will ever be the same.
Maybe it is running when you can’t do anything else.