I recently graduated from college. Yes, the class of 2020 and all that.

It was not how I expected my senior year to go, let alone my graduation ceremony. Still, there have been some surprisingly good parts to it. I graduated from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, but I moved back home to finish up here in quarantine. A quarter of online classes, with no cafès to escape to and counting on spotty wifi, was hard, but being back in Maine had its upsides.

Like seeing winter turn to spring in Maine for the first time in five years, eating more take-out than usual to support the local economy, or focusing more on hobbies. The graduation ceremony cannot replace walking across the stage with all my classmates, but it was wonderful in its own way, with my family sitting in the backyard, cheering through their masks. This might be surprising, but what I really missed that day was not my friends or professors or the college campus, but my grandparents. All of my grandparents passed away before they could witness my graduation.

My maternal grandfather passed away during my freshman year of college, and my paternal grandfather in my junior year. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was 15, and my paternal grandmother when I was two. Though I knew each one in different capacities, they were with me every step of the way during college.

My academic focuses were motivated and inspired by their lives, their characters, and the questions about them and their experiences that had been left with me. From Nona, I inherited a desire to understand the world and all its people, leading me to major in anthropology. From Grampa, I inherited an enjoyment of the walks across campus, admittedly often hurried, a breath of nature and fresh air. From Opa, I inherited a profound desire to improve my German, and I was lucky enough to be able to use it with him in his last years. From Oma, I inherited the story of flight, that I recalled as I studied current refugee groups and the international laws that were established after her story.

In each of my classes, each of my conversations, each corner of campus, I felt the inherited stories and lives of my grandparents that motived me and pushed me to find out more.

In some ways, my path of study was a selfish one, inspired by the stories of my ancestors, and necessary to satisfy the questions that have swirled around me as I grew up. If it was selfish, it was worth it, because it was for my grandparents and everything that I have inherited from them.

Though I am incredibly sad that none of them witnessed my graduation, they are wholly entangled in my degrees and success. Without this inheritance, I would not have accomplished everything I did in the last four years.

—Special to the Telegram

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