A Note For The Class of 2020

This week’s Courier Herald column:

To Aidan, Gena, Max, and the other members of the Class of 2020,

You got hosed.

There’s really not a better spin on how your senior year was interrupted and then cut short.  You had certain expectations, hopes, and dreams.  There were things you wanted to do. Instead of proms, you got to stay home.  Instead of graduation ceremonies, you’re getting virtual ceremonies via Youtube. 

It’s not fair.  My Dad’s most famous parenting quote was “Life is not fair”.  That’s reality, but it doesn’t mean your disappointment is unwarranted, and the hurt over what you’re missing isn’t real.

You’ve likely already been told by countless adults that you still have your whole life ahead of you, focus on what is important, and other trite lines from older people who already have prom memories and got to turn their tassels with their friends.  At the risk of sounding like one of those people, I’m going to suggest that this unique moment in time is both a lesson and an opportunity.

The lesson is hardly a consolation for the experiences you’ve had to forgo, but one that is quite valuable nonetheless.  Everyone in life, no matter how fortunate, is eventually presented with a situation beyond your control that changes everything. 

Initially it will likely throw you for a loop.  You’ll have to regroup, adjust your plans, and eventually assess what has changed and what hasn’t.  Above all, the faster you can get through denial, assessment, and acceptance, the sooner you can get on with your life.

You’ll notice that older adults are going through this right now as well.  Some of the things we’re missing out on are different than yours, and we’re all handling it differently.  You’ve likely noticed some of us are not handling this as well as others.  That’s going to be an ongoing challenge for you as well.

Your economics teachers may have taught you there is wisdom in crowds, but social media will teach you there is not.  Especially in times like this, it’s best to ignore the noise. 

You’ve likely been asked if all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you jump too?  Just because everyone else is losing their heads in response to change, you don’t have to either.

And herein this lesson lies your opportunity.  The older folks are freaking out because humans are resistant to change.  As you enter the workforce, you’ll likely be told this by legions of highly paid consultants right before they mess up every way you do things to make you work differently.

Your anxiety may be higher than normal because this chapter of your life is coming to a close.  Even though it isn’t closing the way you expected, you knew change was coming and you’ve been preparing for it. 

You’re anxious about what’s next, and the newly injected uncertainty around what happens next fall.  That’s Ok.  All the other adults are too.

It’s important to remember as you move forward that you’re not the only one dealing with uncertainty.  Your peer group isn’t either.  Literally, the whole world is trying to figure this out, one day at a time.

Don’t beat yourself up for not having all the answers.  No one else does either.

Do not be paralyzed by fear.  Likewise, do not reject facts or reality to pretend nothing is wrong.  Find a middle path that works for you, and ignore those who demand you follow their path their way.

Don’t increase your anxiety because you’re having to adjust goals, or don’t have any idea what expectations you should have for yourself.  We’re all having to make these same adjustments right now, and we should allow ourselves the same grace and understanding that we also need to be showing others.

I do wish life wasn’t teaching you this lesson right now, in this way. None of the words here are meant to tell you “it’s for the best”. 

The message here is that with your diploma’s conveyed virtually, it’s time to move forward. You’re not getting the parties right now that you’ve earned, but that doesn’t make your accomplishments less valuable. 

Set your sights on what’s next.  Aim even higher.  And promise yourself when the time is right, you will give yourself a make-up somehow, some way, to celebrate the achievements we recognize with your diploma.

Congratulations. You made it.

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