At my age, I feel like I have already lost the years, the unimaginable stories that will no longer be written, the experiences that can no longer be experienced, and the words that can no longer be said—the moments I was looking forward to reminiscing on decades from now.

I am bracing myself for a goodbye. An uncertain one. It’s the kind of farewell that may come although you’re not sure, so you still do your best to prepare for the blow.

Realizing that I only spent two and a half semesters on campus twists my gut and turns it into knots that I cannot untangle. A quick trip back to memory lane or a video call with friends cannot cure it. At first, there was still a glint of hope of returning to school, seeing my friends again without the risk of catching the virus, and living my college life to the fullest.

This was my mindset half a year ago. Now, little by little, I’m already expecting the worst—graduating in front of my laptop screen.

I can already imagine it: After hearing my name called, I’d sigh, shoulders slouched, thinking that the ending to my four-year journey is anti-climactic enough to make me numb.

I’d hear the neighbors’ roosters crowing along with the sound of tricycles speeding up, filling the streets and testing my patience. My camera would probably be turned off.

I’d wallow in regret in my room, sitting on a chair that’s different from the armchairs at school. My face would be bare. No need for makeup to look decent since there wouldn’t be a picture-taking ceremony anyway. No more cheers from the other students, no more inside jokes, and the loud graduation music. My desire to wear a pretty dress, one that matches my toga, and to stand in the auditorium while letting out tears of gratitude? Gone.

My family would probably throw a small party to celebrate my milestone. A year ago, they often joked that they’d be glad to build me a makeshift stage, one made out of wood and just three inches high for me to stand on. Now, they wouldn’t dare bring it up. They know it would sting me. Leave me wilted. Hopeless. Unmotivated.

In college, the possibilities are endless. I can build myself, explore new things, maybe discover the unknown along the way, kickstart my dreams. During my brief stay in school, I was able to piece together parts of myself that I know will last, thanks to the help of blockmates, orgmates, a friend of a friend, and even strangers. I had bad experiences, too, but all those were overshadowed by days of me finding a home in the different kinds of people I was lucky enough to come across. Now I don’t even talk to them anymore as much as I want to.

What am I supposed to do now? The process of it all was cut short. The abrupt shift from face-to-face classes to an online setup left a gaping hole in me. I’m treading unknown waters, and I am scared that I may not see land anymore.

I am bracing myself for a goodbye. Regrets are eating me alive. I had so many plans and now they’re all gone. The bitter reality is that I never knew that my time on campus would end on a random day. If I only knew, I would’ve hugged my friends tight, I would’ve splurged on meals, I would’ve stayed longer on the benches, I would’ve enjoyed my classes more. I would’ve done so much more. Much, much more.

As the days kept going, my regrets piled up one after the other. Last year, I was still optimistic. At times, I daydreamed so much about what I would do the moment the news broadcaster announced that face-to-face classes were to be held again.

I’d immediately call my friends, ask them if they saw the news. My footsteps would echo through the house as I run upstairs to prepare my notebooks and printed readings. Of course, all of this is an exaggeration, but I am certain that it would feel like a buzzer-beater.

On campus, I’d run around maybe high-fiving people along the way. My voice would be hoarse from all the “chikahan” and catching up with my friends. Maybe we’d stay until “lights out” to show how much we missed everything. I’d probably be smiling all day.

But now, nothing. I am not sure what will happen. To be honest, my hope vanished just like my ideals. I don’t want my journey to end just yet. If there is indeed a buzzer-beater to this pandemic, a sudden cure, a faster solution, then I’ll take it. If there is something that I can hold on to—a tiny hope of return—my hands would grab it, clutch it close, and never let go.

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