Dear Class of 2020,
In the weeks or months or maybe even years leading up to this spring, we each imagined what this moment, the culmination of so many moments before it, would look like. In some of our imaginings, Commencement was a champagne toast and graduation cap toss as we fell into the arms of our fellow graduates. In others, Commencement was the pride of our families watching us climb steps we thought would never end onto stages upon which we thought we would never stand. In yet others, Commencement was a promise fulfilled, a finish line crossed, a breath exhaled.
In all of these renderings, Commencement represented closure as we completed one chapter and proceeded on to the next. The rituals we expected to perform–prom and senior prank, midnight study breaks and morning-of exam cramming, graduation parties and job applications–were intended to help us turn the final pages of this chapter, to achieve this closure. But in the absence of these rituals, and in the presence of these new ways of being and doing, we find ourselves feeling like our books are missing the pages that were supposed to conclude the chapter we’ve been writing for the past two or four or six years.
But the pages are not missing! Sure, this chapter contained quite a plot twist–one even the author was not expecting to write around. But this chapter ended exactly where it was meant to, and hopefully it gave us a newfound appreciation for that author. Because yes, we have all had moments over the past few months where everything has felt like an uphill battle. We have all had moments where giving up has felt like a much more reasonable option than literally anything else. But here we are. We worked hard to get to this point, harder than many of us ever have. Our accomplishments stand–we have done things we never dreamed of. We have suspended our expectations, with understandable difficulty, and have adapted, with understandable resistance, to the unique challenges posed by a global pandemic (like sudden school closures, widespread panic, a concerning dearth of toilet paper). We have practiced radical acceptance of the new paradigm being forced upon us (hellllllo, face masks in public and constant Zoom meetings!). We have necessarily found ways to connect with others and with ourselves (car parades and hour-long phone calls; solo car rides and hour-long walks).
And we have done all of this, maybe not perfectly, maybe not gracefully, maybe not without nearing the very limits of our sanity, but we have done this, and we have done it while mourning the loss of routine, the loss of structure, the loss of the Commencement we expected.
And now, Class of 2020, the world grapples with its own unexpected Commencement, its own ending and beginning, and it looks to us. It looks to us because we found ways to persevere. We found ways to hold things that are sometimes at odds with each other–togetherness and aloneness, successes and setbacks, fear and faith. We found ways to maintain routines, we found ways to lift each other up, we found ways to motivate ourselves.
Class of 2020, this global Commencement may feel to many like a stack of blank pages, but who better than us to pick up the pen and begin to write this chapter?