On Being A 21-Year-Old Graduating From College (And Not Having Parents)

Dima Viunnyk
Dima Viunnyk

As a senior in college, my experience has been quite different than the “average” college student. Going into college, my dad had just died from a short battle with pancreatic cancer. After his passing, I thought “oh okay, that’s just one stepping stone, life will get better.” The chances that life would get worse was small…but boy did it happen. A few weeks after his passing, my mom was diagnosed with throat cancer.

I lived at home, and went to the University right down the road. I balanced school, sorority life, and taking care of mom. I didn’t have many friends in the beginning. Which sucked. A lot. I always imagined I would spend college hanging out on campus with friends, staying up late going to parties. Not going to class and immediately coming home. It was a weird transition, that’s not a lie. Things didn’t really start to crumble until mom got increasingly worse. After her brother died from cancer around Christmas, she started to decline. In February, just 9 months after dad, she passed.

Since then, a lot has happened. I’ve gotten involved on campus, moved out on my own and worked several jobs to keep myself supported. Something I rarely do is reach out. At least, I used to never reach out when I needed help. After mom died, I jumped into this lifestyle of basically taking anyone who would listen to me and making them listen to me…a lot. Over the years I’ve accumulated a group of very special “fake moms,” as I like to call them. They’re all incredible women and role models that I’ve let in on my crazy whirlwind of emotions. I can honestly say, if it weren’t for their support I would be crazy.

Sometimes, I laugh and just think about how shitty it is that I’m 21 and my parents are dead.

It’s really hard to even say that out loud. So hard, that I don’t really say it. The years have been understandably bumpy, but with college graduation just a little over a month away, I am getting more and more frustrated with their physical absence. It’s something I don’t know if I’ll ever understand and I’m just genuinely hurt and pissed off that they aren’t here. They should be here for this. The worst part is I know that I’ll be at graduation surrounded by people and their parents.

Moral of this story is that you can’t take your parents for granted. Or anyone, really.There is so much I wish I could have said to my mom and dad. I know at some point, I will reach a time in my life that I will have lived more years without them. That’s terrifying. Cherish your parents. Even if you don’t get along, tell them you love them. Take them out to dinner. Go home for a random weekend visit, just because. If only I could do the same.

I never thought my life story would end up sounding like a really shitty Lifetime movie, but here I am. I don’t know my purpose on this world, however, I’m beginning to think it could be hopefully inspiring people to appreciate their loved ones when they have the chance. TC mark

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