Articles that shouldn’t have been written: whale-esque sobbing about a canceled graduation ceremony

April 7, 2020 • 10:45 am

Here we have a kvetcher of the first water: one Katarina Kovac, who in Huffpost’s “Coronavirus” section beefs about her graduation ceremony being canceled. But of course that’s true for every graduating student in America, and so she has to supplement her beef, producing a double filet of a kvetch. She not only is “heartbroken” about her canceled graduation, but also feels extremely guilty about being heartbroken.” Only an entitled and self-absorbed person could write a piece on this kind of faux angst (look at that smug expression, and why is she in an empty library?), and only HuffPo would find it worth publishing. It details a “grievance experience” broadcast to solicit double pity from the reader.

It has not escaped my notice that Ms. Kovac was an English Language and Literature major at the University of Michigan, and is set to start a job in the fashion industry.

Read and weep (or laugh):

It’s not that she doesn’t have a right to be sad—after all, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had plans wrecked by the pandemic and subsequent quarantines. Single people can’t go out on dates, and where would they go, anyway? People who wanted to get married now must either postpone it or have a virtual wedding.  And Kovac does recognize that other people have it far worse than her: people who have lost friends or loved ones, people who have lost their jobs, and so on. As she recognizes, “my problem is very much a privileged problem.”

Weddings are being postponed, and here I am, sitting on the bathroom floor, crying about my college graduation ceremony being canceled.

But can’t I be sad? Can’t I acknowledge the magnitude of the horror and suffering this crisis has brought to the world while still allowing myself to grieve what I’ve lost?

I’m sad for this time in my life that I had dreamed of since I was a young girl, when I learned what “Go Blue!” meant.

And so she cried about her own loss (apparently forgetting—see the headline—that she will still graduate, just without the ceremony—though I suspect many colleges will hold replacement ceremonies or fold them into next year’s). Her parents are sad too:

I sat on the bathroom floor in my parents’ home and sobbed. Hearing my whale-esque sounds of sorrow, worried family members came to my side and shared my pain. My mother, an immigrant to the U.S., had been looking forward to seeing me graduate from this university since the day I set foot on campus. She was 22 years old when the Yugoslav Wars broke out in Croatia, leaving her with a forever incomplete law degree. My father, a first-generation college graduate who has been steadfast in supporting my academic dreams while paying the interest on my student loans, had yearned for the day that he’d see me sport a commencement gown with honors cords and a University of Michigan stole, much like graduation at his alma mater.

I couldn’t remember the last time I cried like that. This wasn’t just a loss for me. It was a loss for my parents, too.

And of course she manages to throw in the social-justice angle, which would certainly appeal to HuffPost:

I’m sad that I’ll miss the chance to thank, in person, the professors who shaped my worldview so pivotally, who helped me to take a step back from my conservative upbringing and understand things about myself that I hadn’t known.

. . . And finally, I’m just sad to realize that my undergraduate experience overlapped with some of the most tumultuous times in our country: Donald Trump’s presidency, a slew of sexual assault allegations, mass shootings and a global pandemic.

The last (and superfluous) line, of course, has nothing to do with her canceled ceremony; she could be sad about all that even with a ceremony. But of course she wouldn’t be able to say anything new about Trump, sexual assault, and shootings. The pandemic gives her a reason to call attention to her feelings.

Why does this piece irk me so much? After all, we all have our disappointments and discuss them with our friends.  No, it irks me because Kovac couldn’t keep her feelings to herself, but felt compelled to splash them all over HuffPost, and to blow them out of proportion by double-beefing in the national media.

But if she feels guilty about such kvetching, why kvetch in public?  There’s nothing new in this piece except that a young woman shows herself to be self-centered enough to parade her double sadness in public. Social media being what it is, she may be forever typed as the “whale-esque sobbing girl.” 

One lesson that life teaches is that it’s not always useful to tell people exactly how we feel, especially when the object is to get sympathy for ourselves. This is one example. If there were some lesson to be learned from Kovac’s whale-esque sobbing, perhaps her piece would have been worth publishing. But there is no such lesson.

Any why on earth did they choose to use a picture of her looking like the cat who swallowed the canary? That smirk is worse than the one supposedly made by MAGA Boy (and that wasn’t a real smirk).

47 thoughts on “Articles that shouldn’t have been written: whale-esque sobbing about a canceled graduation ceremony

  1. Jerry, you nailed it! “One lesson that life teaches…,” she hasn’t had a life yet! Oh, she thinks she has, and she is in for a rude awakening beginning — about now.

  2. Like the kind with sexual bits, this form of masturbation has no place in public; though it may feel good to her, no one else wants to see it. Literally no one, except like minded perverts.

    1. Yes, exactly. It’s not the feeling that’s wrong, it’s the demand for public recognition. Because that indicates the person doesn’t get context, doesn’t have a reasonable evaluation of how their legitimate grief over not getting this rite of passage ceremony racks and stacks compared with other ongoing issues.

      But can’t I be sad? Can’t I acknowledge the magnitude of the horror and suffering this crisis has brought to the world while still allowing myself to grieve what I’ve lost?

      Sure you can be sad. Grieve with your family (and virtually with your) friends, and classmates. We understand this is really disappointing to you. But the rest of us don’t want to hear about it; we have more important things to worry about.

    2. Oh, +1

      You nailed it.

      Still, I guess it’s about what we might expect from an English Lit major who is about to join the fashion industry.

      Like, real deep navel gazing.

      Of course, it does have one useful function – it gives sarcastic bastards like me a chance to relieve our shut-in boredom by being sarcastic, what a surprise. 😉


  3. My daughter graduated from the University of Central Florida a couple of years ago. UCF rivals Michigan in size. I don’t think Kovac understands how minor an experience it is. You spend more time queuing to get in and out, and up to the stage, than you do getting your diploma. That lasts about five seconds. We should all feel terrible for her, though, and the trauma that she suffered due to the pandemic. It’s a gripping tale I can relate to; I went to the store the other day, and they were out of seedless rye!

    1. I dunno – at my graduation I got to shake an astronaut’s hand.
      That’s even better than having a fireman buy you a beer.

    2. My graduation ceremony was two or three hours long. Knowing this in advance, I asked my parents for a PSP (Playstation Portable) as a graduation gift. Everyone near me during the ceremony looked on in envy as enjoyed playing videogames while the speakers speechified and the invited politician pontificated.

      1. You did better than me, then. My only memory is that it took forever. The one tangible result of it is a 6 x 4 photo of me in fancy dress (i.e. looking like a prat in mortarboard and gown) which my wife discovered decades later and which now sits in a frame in our lounge from which I am absolutely forbidden to remove it. 🙁


  4. Is the Huff Post running short of other “news” to publish, or is this their norm? Feel sorry for her parents, but note that very often those who have had a harder time in their lives succeed in making their kids’ lives so much easier that said kids grow up too entitled to understand hardship – and how close they are to becoming part of the suffering masses. She understands this on an intellectual level, but since she’s living at home and being comforted by her parents, my guess is she’s still being protected from that awful truth.
    Full disclosure: I speak as an entitled baby boomer who had all the luck growing up in an expanding middle class within a solid nuclear family. Nevertheless, a necessarily cancelled commencement wouldn’t have brought me to tears. The younger generation – hah!

    1. My experience in NZ was very similar to yours. I, an English major, now look back in embarrassment at my youthful self absorption and complete failure to appreciate the effort made by my parents to ensure we children had advantages in life they had missed out on when growing up in the depression followed by WW2 with 5-6 years of food rationing for civilians and 5-6 years in uniform for my father and two of my mother’s brothers.

      If Trump’s presidency is tumultuous, how would she describe episodes from America’s past such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the race riots and struggle for civil rights?

  5. Perhaps feeling a bit guilty now, 50 years later, towards my long departed parents, I did not go to either of my undergrad or grad graduations. The beyond stupid more-or-less compulsory one from high school was enough.

    I like to think my students got plenty of congratulations from me when they deserved it, no need to repeat long after they’d successfully finished. I’ll brag that I did drive half the small class home after, those who had the guts to come and write my class’s exam in a nasty snow storm one time.

    I did attend the Ph.D. graduation one for a guy from Wuhan (of all places, with recent news; he works in Andover near Washington, and is okay so far from the virus). I cannot remember about the others for Ph.D. Seemed maybe kind of a bit like trying to take some inappropriate credit.

    Most of the undergrads seemed to regard their degree as nothing much more than a meal ticket.

    I’m a bit queer vis-a-vis ceremonies, perhaps. A good publication or two in top level journals seems far more a ‘congrat’ for Ph.D.s. At least the referees can really appreciate what was done.

    Ostentatious displays of pride??

  6. I wonder how she feels about having written an article about feeling guilty about feeling heartbroken?

  7. I chose not to attend the graduation ceremony for my University of London degree, mainly because they were held at the Royal Albert Hall with several thousand graduating students drawn from all of the colleges of the university at each ceremony — very impersonal, and given the size of the hall, most parents would have needed binoculars to see their kids cross the stage to receive their diplomas.

    A few years later, when I was teaching at another college of the University of London, the rules were changed to allow graduation ceremonies at each college, and I had the pleasure of attending several smaller-scale ceremonies for students that I had taught, and meeting their parents at the reception afterwards. That was a very rewarding experience.

  8. My level of sympathy can be gauged from the fact that since doing so would have required to me to dress up in ridiculous clothes and pay for the ‘privelege’ of so doing I chose not to attend my own graduation ceremony (I got the degree, which is the important bit).

  9. She is perhaps virtue signalling – for some people suffering, being a victim, is a virtue. Although for others unfounded suffering is a vice.

  10. She does not feel guilty about anything. She wants to be praised for claiming to feel guilty.

    There are so many of these very shallow and narcissistic people coming into adulthood. I really think the horrors of the first half of the 20th century are going to seem almost trivial compared to what is likely to come.

      1. I’m reminded of Garrison Keillor, he himself an English major, occasionally taking a swipe at English majors on “Prairie Home Companion.”

        1. Garrison Keilor, ‘taking a swipe’ at people of faith but not of his own –
          “Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that’s their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite “Silent Night.” If you don’t believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn “Silent Night” and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write “Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah”? No, we didn’t. “

  11. “I’m so guilty…in fact I’m feeling go guilty I must immediately write a long article in the Huffington Post about it.”

    Give me a break.

  12. … one Katarina Kovac …

    Another blight on the once-proud KK initials. At one time it was just me, my sister, Ken Kesey, and Kris Kristofferson. Then my sister got married and changed her maiden name; Kesey croaked, and ol’ Kris pretty much disappeared from the public eye. Worst of all, along came that godawful Kardashian Klan to debase our brand in toto.

    Now this latest insult.

    How long, O Lord, how long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemies be exalted over me? How long?

    1. I was going to do just that: ignore the whole article. But then I started feeling so incredibly guilty.

  13. We’ve cancelled some trips, including 2 weeks in Chicago for the Lyric Opera Ring cycle. Hilight sidetrip would have been to Jerry’s Pond. Took the ticket refund, but said farewell to “Valhalla Circle” contribution made December 2018. We expect San Francisco Opera to cancel summer operas, causing us further suffering, and it is likely Santa Fe Opera will have to cancel. Poor us! How can some dumb graduation compare to our torment and victimhood?

    1. Canadian Opera Co. has cancelled their last two operas. Have donated my very expensive subscription tickets (virtue signalling)😬
      Met Opera in HD cancelled, Chamber music series cancelled. Am sad, but not despondent. We Will Surviiiiiiiive🎶🎶

  14. The father of a friend of mine died on Sunday of a disease unrelated to coronavirus. He died alone without his family present because the nursing home was in lock down. His mother found out that her husband had died via a conversation with his brother shouted through the letterbox in her front door. There won’t be a funeral – or rather there will be but only a priest will be present.

    Given normal UK mortality figures and the deaths due to coronavirus, something similar to that story has probably repeated more than 25,000 times in the UK since lock down started. I wouldn’t be complaining about my postponed graduation ceremony.

    1. A few days ago there was a striking article in the Daily Beast, written by an anonymous NY emergency health worker, written from the frontline(they described it as a ‘warzone’).

      The most heartbreaking part was where they described how they’d had to adapt to a new role: they now have to be an emotional stand-in for the infected person’s family. They end up being the last people the infected see before they die. The emotional weight of that is just unimaginable to me.

      That’s all on top of subjecting themselves to the dangers of the virus on a daily basis. These people are true heroes.

  15. Maybe she (subconsciously?) took offense that Covid-19 victims were getting more attention than her.

    I’m reminded of what the Christakises had to deal with at Yale.

    I asked that my university simply mail my diploma to me. I cannot tell that I have one whit suffered on account of that.

    In high school I was the senior class president. Looking back I can’t believe that I attached the least importance to that. Freaking status-consciousness and peer pressure and conformity. (I quickly encountered my incompetence with Roberts’s Rules of Order.)

    The consequence, which I was apparently too stupid to know or anticipate, was that I had to get up and give some little fatuous graduation speech with some passable sincerity and interest. A few days prior to graduation, I beseeched one of the senior class teachers/sponsors to, as it were, “let this cup pass.” She resolutely refused. Looking back, I don’t envy her in having to deal with this self-absorbed adolescent on the issue, whatever she privately thought about such matters.

  16. “… she will still graduate, just without the ceremony ….”

    Yeah. But it lacks the furtive piquancy of a honeymoon without the ceremony.

  17. Graduation ceremonies are among the most mind-numbingly boring rites we are asked to sit through. I avoided my university graduation ceremonies except for my PhD, and only then because my parents wanted to go. I have only gone to them when I have particular students graduating.

    1. I agree on graduation, in general. For my undergraduate degree, I attended a military academy, and we had a thing called “Final Review”. That was a bigger deal to me than the actual graduation. When I was home for breaks or vacations, I always just wore what other teenagers wore, and my Mom had never seen me in uniform, much less with a sword and shiny custom boots.
      For some reason, it just did not seem real until my folks actually witnessed it.

  18. And what’s she doing in the U of M Law Library anyway? No English literature or fashion magazines in there.

    – G (Ann Arbor native and UM grad)

  19. I think any use of “And here I am…” indicates narcissism to follow. I notice one cannot comment on this self-flagellturbation. If one could, I would tell her to forget about herself (and forget about forgetting herself) and get busy.

    I was an English Literature undergrad, too. The First Gulf War was winding up. (There were protests during my commencement.) So I got out and protested and wrote, and contributed articles to an underground magazine. (Fortuitously that’s how I met Sanford Berman, who is a well-known librarian activist, and whose ideas were taught in grad school when I went for my Masters in Library and Information Science).

  20. My BS graduation (now there’s a double entendre for you) from UI Chicago was held in the Chicago Stadium, a stones throw from campus. To show how worthless this all was, because there were maybe 5k of us, only the PhDs actually walked. We just got the “all biological studies student please stand” honorarium. No sheepskin in hand, just the cover with the promise of the diploma coming in the mail later.

    For my masters, I got two sheepskins. My original one didn’t have my name spelled correctly. Graduations were never my favorite activity even without these things.

  21. “Hearing my whale-esque sounds of sorrow…”

    This is an English Language and Literature major?!? What are they reading/teaching in these classes?

  22. On the bright side think of all the boredom of going to one of those ceremonies avoided. I didn’t even go to my undergraduate one and my (univ prof) parents thanked me for not subjecting them to it!
    They are interminable, for 5 seconds of “fame”, an $80 gown rental fee blown and a day that COULD have been spent drinking lost forever!
    And who cries in the bathroom? Why not the middle of the road? Ugh.
    D.A., J.D., NYC

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