To Graduates Everywhere,
This is not what you pictured your graduation day looking like, nor how you pictured your final months of school going—but do not let this stop you from celebrating all that you have accomplished. You should feel proud of everything you have achieved and all that you will go on to do.
While we are certain you miss seeing your friends and classmates in person (we certainly do), we hope that these challenging times can make those happy memories even more precious.
We know that the coming months will continue to be full of many adjustments and hardships (some of you have already taken on extra responsibilities at home, caring for family members or taking on extra jobs). Some of you have received job offers only to have them rescinded due to the pandemic. Others of you are struggling to get interviews at all and are realizing the life you had planned for yourself might look a bit different than you expected. Whatever losses, big or small, you are experiencing, we hope you allow yourself to:
Take a moment to be sad.
Grief expert David Kessler, while speaking with Brené Brown said, “This is a collective loss of the world we all lived in before the pandemic. We like every other loss, didn’t know what we had, until it was gone.” It is easy to get hung up on comparative suffering and not allow yourself to grieve the many losses you are experiencing.
Feeling your own pain does not belittle the pain of others. We want to give you permission (not that you needed our permission) to be sad for the things that are hard for you right now. It can feel selfish to miss graduation day, sports, or grabbing a drink with your friends, when so many people are facing so many worse things—but in the words of NPR’s Mike Pesca those are the “embodiments of community and connection. And it’s reasonable to yearn for that right now.” We can both listen to what we are losing and still see the struggles others are facing. But then, in the midst of this all, I hope that you:
Take a moment to be proud.
You did it! And you’ve done this in the face of tremendous adversity. You’ve successfully navigated transitions to remote learning, found creative solutions for final exhibitions, and all while adapting to a completely new lifestyle. This is no small feat. You’ve worked your entire life to get to where you are today, so I hope you take time to celebrate. And while you’re at it:
Take a moment to be joyful.
Celebrate with friends and family. Have a toast on zoom. Let your faculty praise you. When you feel happy, lean into it. Do not feel guilty when you feel joy. There is room in all of us to both care for others and empathize with the pain of the world and to experience beauty and happiness. You’ve earned this.
Our hope is also that we can use our skills to make a positive impact on the world. Whether that’s making funny memes to encourage people to wash their hands and stay home—or creating a digital card to send a friend telling them you’re thinking of them—or designing a system for safely delivering food to children who rely on school lunches during this time of disruption.
We know that each of you can give something back. Just make sure you also take time to take care of yourselves. It’s difficult to help others if we aren’t also looking out for our own well-being. But it is ok if you do not have anything extra to give right now—simply getting through these challenging times is an achievement on its own.
Aisha Ahmad from Chronicle Vitae said “On the other side of this journey of acceptance are hope and resilience. We will know that we can do this, even if our struggles continue for years. We will be creative and responsive, and will find light in all the nooks and crannies. We will learn new recipes and make unusual friends. We will have projects we cannot imagine today, and will inspire [people] we have not yet met. And we will help each other.”
This is indeed a strange time to be graduating. The world we knew has been forever changed, but the silver lining is that some of the changes will be for the better. We hope that you can find ways to learn from this experience and find enjoyment on this complicated journey.
We’ll leave you with the words of the great Conan O’Brien “Today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”
Well-wishes to you all, and a huge Congratulations class of 2020!
Resources for Finding Jobs:
Resources for Mental Health: