Edited by: Amrita Mahesh

The Washington Post, 2012 reads: 

YOLO, or “You only live once,” is sort of a teen interjection for “Carpe Diem.” Only it’s short on the noble idea of living life to its fullest — and more focused on brash decisions than their consequences.

Agreed, that Gen – Z acronym has strayed a long, long way down the road from the romanticised and poetic notions of the Latin aphorism, but in the interest of a tl;dr (or, not…) here comes another:

The uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you”. Under this framing of FoMO, nearly three-quarters of young adults reported they experienced the phenomenon.

– Time Newsletter, 2016. 

Point número tres: since the pandemic has way exceeded the thresholds of relevance and significance, seeping into all domains of knowledge as we knew it in 2020, this seems like a great place to start-

The pandemic affected our perception of time. 

The weeks seem to snap by within a flick of fingers when it’s mid-semester and we are neck deep…, oh – maybe I should rephrase this: 

when we have a bazillion tabs and windows open on the screen, and we cannot find the source of audio or the video randomly echoing in the background.  

On another parallel, the wait to normalcy has agonisingly moved on from days to weeks to months. It’s been over a year now, so much so that the next batch of insti students are gearing up to graduate.

The majority of the undergraduate insti population today would be the batches that saw it all: the floods of 2015 and 2018, the cyclone of 2016, the drought in 2019, and a horde of calamities and disasters, both natural and man-made in the world 2020, set to the raging pandemic backdrop. Peachy. 

Till von Wachter, a UCLA labour economist, has a name for the young people who enter the labour force at the worst possible moment: 

Unlucky Graduates.’

Getting back to the YOLO now, of course- the pandemic has given us a lot of potential for introspection. For the graduating batches, however, YOLO probably cacophonies on an entirely different anguishing twang. 

Ideally, when you graduate, the expectation of growth is that it occurs as a fluid process akin to osmosis; the newest disjoint segments of life begin to slot in together like a wonderfully mature jigsaw. Insti, for a sizeable chunk of undergraduates, has always been a safe haven. Almost everyone in insti has the solace of knowing that they would get somewhere at least with the opportunities that insti lay at our feet where they would be, at the very least, partially happy with the outcomes. And so, the familiar story revolves around every odd semester, make-or-break anxiety of the best PoR apps, interns, and interviews.

It certainly seems driven predominantly only by the motive of chalking up resume points, but it is actually a valuable prep-course of sorts, whilst still under the shadow and comfort of insti’s safety net; for when you step out of insti for good, it is a massive block of uncertainties – cue in Frozen 2 <Into the Unknown>.

You would’ve wanted to ‘put peace’ one last time, for who knows if this concept of ‘putting peace’ even exists in the beyond. Those final year road trips, four years of insti life goals, both personal and professional – all poof with no warning. For the 2020 batch, COVID-19 deprived them of perhaps the last four months of their insti life. While the 2021 graduates expected most COVID hassles, they lost a significant portion of insti life, starting right from their third-year interns – which were held virtually for the fortunate crowd. The third-year interns, for most undergraduates, are likely to be one of the only prominent ‘legit’ interns they have encountered, which helps them mentally prepare for what lies ahead of them on their first day at work placements. 

February 2021 looked promising. The graduating batch of 2021, and in fact, the entire insti population staring bleakly at their laptop screens with dry red eyes, could finally heave a hopeful sigh of relief. India was doing much better in the numbers of COVID cases. Things looked good for a while. 

Next sem pakka offline.

This meant graduation pakka in insti for the 2021 graduates, which was quite a reasonable ask then, given that insti had concerns only with accommodation and safety protocols. The graduation itself is a one-day event with a smaller crowd expected on-ground. This could’ve been their one last chance to breathe in the insti air. Then, the second wave of COVID-19 struck. We saw cases rise above 400k per day. At this point, the author is too exhausted with this to make any positive, hopeful claims on ‘next sem pakka offline’.

Presently, given the lockdown in several states, most of the graduates’ summer plans have also been rained over. Now, before this article takes an even drearier tone, it is perhaps, the right moment to end with something COVID-19 has very tactfully taught all of us in a mass of speculations, hypotheses, opinions, verdicts, decisions, cancellations, and amendments: 

Nobody knows anything.

– William Goldman

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