The Beatless Beat Writer: To the UA Class of 2020
The following is an open letter from BamaCentral.com staff writer and University of Alabama Class of 2020 graduate Joey Blackwell:
Dear Fellow UA Class of 2020 Graduates,
We did it.
On what would have been our graduation day, we can finally all rest easy. These two years for me — or four years for most — have been some of the most rewarding of my life. Though the first few semesters were filled with struggle, nothing could have prepared me — or anyone else for that matter — for what occurred this spring.
Or did they?
In times of trouble, I've always found it incredible just how stalwart and strong humans are. In times of desperation, people have a way of discovering traits inside them that they never knew were there. As we grow and develop, these lessons that we learn over the years help us in so many ways, yet we never take the time to appreciate how we administer the knowledge that we have acquired.
Those 8 a.m. classes that we didn’t want to be at? Those taught us discipline. Those late nights in Gorgas Library when all we wanted to do was sleep? Those taught us perseverance. Saving up to purchase those egregiously expensive textbooks? That taught us financial management. Those Thursday nights at Rounders and Innisfree? Well, let’s just call those a social experiment.
In college, we learn so much more than we think. While we all attend classes to pursue the careers of our dreams, we learn just as much outside of the classroom as we do in it. As we entered spring break this past March, many of us left our beloved Tuscaloosa not knowing when or if we would ever return.
Those like me stayed. Living off campus and with a lease until July along with a full-time job, I found it best for me to stay in town. While many did the same, many more returned home to their families to wait out the crisis.
Regardless of how you have spent your quarantine, we all share one common factor that unites us regardless of major or year:
We never got to say goodbye.
As someone who had earned a bachelor’s degree prior to attending UA, I fully understand the significance of goodbye. As the class of 2020, we were denied that. While it is entirely understandable given the circumstances, that doesn’t make it any less painful.
For us, there will not be that last 8 a.m. class. There will not be that last late night in Gorgas. There will not be that last Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit for breakfast at Lloyd Hall. Sure, we might travel back to campus some day and roam the halls of our former dormitories or get lost for the 543rd time in the maze that is more commonly known as Reese-Phifer, but it will never be that last-day experience that many that have come before us have so gladly taken part in.
For many of us, we also never got to say goodbye to our dear friends, classmates and professors. During my time at UA, I have become incredibly close with many faculty and staff members at our beloved Capstone, as I’m sure many of you have as well. These beacons of knowledge light up our worlds with their passion and enthusiasm. As someone who has attended multiple colleges, I speak from experience when I say this: the faculty at UA are something special and worthy of commendation. Without their vigilance and perseverance, we would not be here today.
In our years at UA, we have grown so much in so many ways. We have learned so many precious lessons, developed life-long relationships, acquired incredible mentors and obtained valuable experience that will follow with us for the rest of our lives. Without UA, we would be a very different people.
As students at the University of Alabama, we have heard so often over the years the phrase “Where Legends Are Made.” Now, the time has come for us to forge onward, armed with the knowledge and experience that we have earned, and prove to the world that the saying is true.
UA is where legends are made, and we are those legends. While we might have finished our undergraduate degrees, the learning does not stop here in Tuscaloosa. As we all move forward, we shall continue to acquire skills and knowledge far beyond the doors of UA’s halls. In order to complete our legendary status, we must press onward, ever learning and always seeking out knowledge.
While we might not have gotten an opportunity to say goodbye on that coveted last day of finals, we do still have the opportunity to reclaim that feeling at the summer graduation. If all goes as planned, I hope to see each and every one of you there, and witness one final time what happens when the legends of the UA Class of 2020 come together.
Congratulations, and Roll Tide!
The Beatless Beat Writer is a series of stories by BamaCentral's own Joey Blackwell. The series is meant to reflect on and discuss Alabama athletics and its fans in Tuscaloosa during the current pandemic.