Senior Column: When senior year ghosts you

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We thought undergrad would end with a bang: senior formal, dinner on the quad, graduation pictures by Memorial Church and commencement in the football stadium. Instead, senior spring slipped away, transitioning from “maybe classes will be online” to “maybe we’ll be back for the end of the quarter” to “maybe my diploma will arrive in time for virtual commencement.” 

As several older friends have already reminded me, sitting in the stadium wearing a cap and gown gets hot and sweaty; watching from home, I can comfortably remain in my pajamas if I so choose. But going through all of the formalities might have provided a sense of closure to my college education.

As I tried to articulate why senior spring felt weird, I thought, you know, it’s like college just ghosted me. Like a romantic interest who seems really invested but then suddenly stops communicating, college was the center of my life until suddenly, without a proper goodbye, it wasn’t.

Luckily I’m coming back in the fall for a coterm, but if that weren’t the case, it would be, Poof! Never seeing Main Quad again. With one message — “spring quarter will be held entirely online” — the undergraduate relationship is over.

I mean, will it be awkward going back to get my things after this kind of breakup?

I say all of this partly in jest, but I’m also kind of serious. So in that light, here’s some wisdom for getting over being ghosted.

First of all, acknowledge your feelings. According to Psychology Today, ghosting hurts because “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.” So if the lack of cap and gown and clear communication hurts for you, your feelings make sense. But if you don’t really care, that’s okay, too. Each of us has our own relationship with college.

Then, try to look for the positive and move on. Easier said than done, perhaps, but as communication professor and relationship expert Ebony A. Utley told The Cut about ghosting in a romantic context, we should reframe situations in terms of what we’ve learned.

I know that over the past four years, I’ve learned I dislike chemistry and love history, I’ve studied abroad and lived in six different Stanford dorms, and I’ve met dozens of incredible people and made close friends. I’ve tried on different versions of myself, written an honors thesis and found a career path I’m excited about. And over the past three months, I’ve gotten a crash course in dealing with uncertainty and accepting change.

Stanford, I’m not mad. Seniors all across the country probably feel like their universities have ghosted them a bit. I do hope you give us some extra nice alumni events and work on your communication skills, though. If you do, I bet much of the class of 2020 will want to rekindle our relationship with our alma mater.

Contact Jasmine Kerber at jkerber ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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