A woman walking beside a concrete building

Dear Class of 2020,

2020 will come to an end. This is a reality, that I’m sure, many of you are holding onto. Yet, you might be wondering: Will it really end? Will I be able to find a job? Will I be able to replace the job I lost? Will my family recover financially after the economic recession? What will online grad school look like?

Some might say I was one of the lucky few who escaped these fears and anxieties. I earned my diploma in December 2019, one semester ahead of my peers. In a way, I feel like the lone character in a thriller movie who barely makes it out alive.

The blessings didn’t stop there. I was miraculously able to find a job one month after my graduation. I didn’t lose my job when COVID-19 hit. None of this was by my own merit. No one could have known this was how things would turn out. 

No one could have known this was how things would turn out. 

I hear you asking: Why did a worldwide pandemic have to happen this year? What about the plans I had lined up for the summer? Why did my graduation ceremony have to be canceled?

To be honest, I don’t know. None of us do. I don’t know why you weren’t able to have your celebratory day. However, I do know that there can still be good that comes out of the uncertainty. In the unique challenges of this time, you can still grow, learn valuable life lessons and achieve great things. Nothing is wasted. 

Your future plans—your career, your education, even your relationships—none of these things were ever completely in your control. It took a pandemic to remind us of this truth. You may be disappointed by a rejected job application or fearful because of financial loss. Yet, recognizing our lack of agency in life’s many unpredictabilities reminds us of its fragility and value.

It is OK to retreat right now. It is OK to slow down. It is OK to rest. You are in for a marathon, not a sprint. You are recharging so you can get up and run again. You don’t always have to be “on” to be of value.

The world says you need to get into this graduate program, land that internship, launch your career by 21 and take a gap year. None of this is true. This is your time to just be—to truly rest.

This is your time to just be—to truly rest.

For those of you who are struggling with finances, I want you to know there is kindness and grace in this world to help. There are businesses, organizations and schools stepping up with resources to help recent graduates find virtual internships, remote jobs and a sense of stability. Someone out there cares about your future. It is OK to take their hand. It is OK to ask for help. 

2020 graduates, this is not the end. It is your beginning, and it is no less promising. You hold no less value because of your starting line. You may feel disadvantaged. Take advantage of the disadvantage. Take this time to breathe, step back and take a new look at the world. 

We are all doing our best to survive and thrive again. You can do it too, with a fresh diploma in your hand. You, too, will move forward. 

For the Class of 2020, what are your hopes and fears? For the older adults, what is your advice for these new graduates?

Image via Raisa Zwart Photography

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