One of our society’s markers for making the bridge into adulthood is graduation from high school. At that point, we expect the majority of our young people will have made decisions on how they do (and do not) want to live their lives.
When we get to the college and university level, that’s where we anticipate students have received enough extended education that they’re prepared to find work in their chosen field. Maybe they’re already on their way to the workforce.
Both types of graduation are important to mark. There’s rarely as unified a sense of pride than that which we see at graduation. Students are proud of themselves and thankful to mark their accomplishments. For parents, graduation is one of the moments that engraves itself into hearts.
Almost all graduates have specific memories of their ceremonies. But this year’s graduates will have memories unlike any others. Maybe they’ll be staring at a computer screen, watching a virtual ceremony being streamed over the internet. Maybe they’ll have friends and/or family on an overcrowded Zoom screen. Maybe they’ll watch themselves, or ignore the date and what it was supposed to be altogether. They won’t know until they’re in the moment whether their reaction will be positive or negative.
They’ll certainly have a story to tell unlike any other. They will always share the bizarre spring with their classmates and others around the country who left their campuses in March and, to their surprise, never returned.
That has to be the roughest way of being sent away by an institution – “Goodbye. We thought we might see you again sometime, but we won’t. Sorry. Good luck. And remember, if you can’t find a job, look around the country – you’re not alone.”
They don’t get to give advice from a commencement speaker chosen by them and/or just for them. They don’t get to be the ones picked to give advice.
Let's give you a quick shortcut. Cherish your experiences and memories. Be willing to continue learning. It can be rough out there.
But maybe these graduates will find something special they can share exclusively. Their stories will consist of talking about challenges and what they learned about themselves and about the world as it went on around them, while they watched from a safe distance.
Here's some advice we will offer to graduates.
Stay calm. Some of you are entering a strange workforce, one where no one really knows what will survive, what will thrive and what will dive. Keep your wits about you. However strange and scary the wolrd that awaits us is, you are better-equipped to deal with circumstances than anyone else on the globe.
Keep an eye on your money. When you cash your first full-time checks, you may feel as though you own the world. You do not. Think twice about purchases, and think three times about any credit card you want to acquire.
Be good to yourself. Physically and mentally. Be aware of the ways in which you mistreat yourself, and take steps to correct that as soon as possible.
Most important, remember that you’re building the next block of our history. We can pick points in time when the United States has faced what seemed like insurmountable challenges, but people rose up and effected events positively. Just by stepping into that world, you’re giving older people confidence things can continue.
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