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Dear Flora: Graduation Guest and Quarantine Worries

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Dear Flora,

I am graduating from college this spring, and as is normal for college students I want my parents there to see me walk across the stage. My dad, up until I was 19, had no role in my life, but I am enjoying him being involved on my own terms, so I invited him. He got back to me and said he and his girlfriend would be there. I do not want his girlfriend there; I have next to no relationship with her and she is only one year older than I am. Am I wrong to ask my dad not to bring her?

-Daddy Issues

Dear DI,

It's a totally normal feeling to be uncomfortable with including a parent's new partner in such a big life event, and that goes double if you were nearly in the same class! Navigating a reestablished relationship with your estranged father is no easy task, either. So how do you include your dad while making your celebration what you want it to be? I think there's a few big social considerations here.

Nothing in your letter seems to imply that your dad's new girlfriend is abusive, unkind, or disruptive. She's just... young, and maybe you feel she's too young for your dad. That's pretty awkward, and combined with your lack of a relationship with her makes for a not-so-welcome guest. However, you are both adults who can date anyone you choose (you wouldn't want him telling you who you can date, right?), and  I think that this is a good opportunity to start building that relationship with her.

It's logical to assume that she and your dad have no plans to split up, so it could be in your best interest to start getting to know her. Otherwise, it will continue to be awkward as your dad asks to include her in even more of your big life events later on. It seems to me that not wanting to include her is natural, but as it stands, it may do more damage to your relationship with your father than you bargained for. You can tell him you don't want to invite her if you want, but be prepared to have him opt out of the ceremony, too, and possibly be extremely hurt.

Dear Flora,

Due to COVID-19, in-person classes have been cancelled, and even though we have online classes my graduation will be postponed for at least a year. I was expecting to go to grad school in my boyfriend's city, but due to the virus everything will be done later. What can I do in the meantime? What if my boyfriend doesn't want to wait for me for an extra year?

-Anxious in Quarantine

Dear AiQ,

As a society, and indeed a whole international community, we're trying to navigate a number of challenges in education through distance learning. It's uncertain for every student, so you're not alone in your anxiety and disappointment. Students set to graduate this year are frustrated to postpone their plans. Weddings have been pushed back. The list is endless. But what can you do "in the meantime?"

If you mean how can you fill the time you'll have with online classes, don't count on having a ton of extra free time. Online learning poses specific challenges, and though schools are working to make the transition easy, some aren't decreasing the workload to accommodate this international trauma. But if you're lucky enough to find yourself with a lot of free time that you want to fill productively (good for you!) then this is an excellent time to consider an internship. Reach out to your school for some options; many schools keep a record per department of available internships and programs for students to enrich their resumes. You can also consider putting together a research project and publishing it: grad schools like that!

As to the problem with your boyfriend, I am sorry to hear that you can't move to his city right away! The good thing about education is that you can start up a program at any age, so you'll be OK in getting admitted, especially if you reach out for some resume boosting activities or research! Unfortunately, your boyfriend seems to have given you the impression that he might not wait. Frankly, anyone who won't wait through an international health crisis for someone they love is not worth staying with. If that's the case, I would counsel a serious revaluation of your relationship.

We're going to get through this!

That's all for this week, folks! Don't forget to submit your questions, and see you next time!