To the Grads of 2020,
Well, it has been a month since I last felt an urge to write. Perhaps this is due to being busy with my ‘quarantine life’ or perhaps it’s because I have felt weighed down by the immense realities before us. We are entering into new, uncharted territory as we start to think about remerging into the world and this has felt daunting to me, if I’m going to be perfectly honest.
As I have been thinking about this reemergence, my focus always lands on our young people; our future. I need to begin this terrain of thought by speaking directly to them today because lately they have inspired me in ways that I am finding hard to put into words, but I will try. So, to the Class of 2020…
I have felt a fierce need to protect you throughout the first months of this pandemic, but there’s more: As your teacher and counsellor, I have felt like it’s my duty to help calm you, reassure you, and tell you that it is all going to be okay, when I’m not quite sure what the future holds. I recently realized, however, that this support is actually a two-way-street. I get a sense that all of you want to protect us adults as well. You have gone out of your way, in fact, to make sure we know that we are contributing to your wellbeing throughout all of this, and I hope that we are. This is a bit mind-baffling to me; your ability to look outwards and worry about others during this unimaginable time.
I believe you have shown this support by remaining calm, composed and hopeful for your futures as we have grappled with how to support you. You have been gentle on us as we navigate that. Thank you. I often find myself an emotional heap by the end of the day, not because of the current state of the world, but because of the hope I feel about the future when I speak to you.
This time is about YOU: When I started crying in class the other day (re. emotional heap) in an act that you probably thought was a little corny but kinda nice, I actually felt a bit selfish. This time we find ourselves in isn’t about me and how I’m feeling about helping you; it’s about you and your future, and you have approached this task with a grace and grit that leaves me speechless.
As I watch you accept offers and get excited about what that means, I feel so hopeful for you and what the world has in store for you. Please never lose that vigour and drive that only a person with their whole life ahead of them can possess. We all need it; you are our future, and we need you trained and ready to do great things and navigate a complex world in your chosen fields.
The world will be normal again, and you will be stronger because of this: You are Generation ‘Z’; a generation that has come of age during the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Me Too’ movements; during a time when the world is facing real problems due to climate change and now a global pandemic. Coming of age in these moments has made you flexible and adaptable in ways my generation can’t understand. You embrace the acceptance of others; you believe that ‘love is love’; you are digital natives and you navigate your online worlds tactfully and with purpose. You are acutely aware of your position in the world, partly due to the fact that you have information at your fingertips and partly because you are open to and respect the opinions of other generations and your peers. You are a large demographic, outsized only by the baby boomers, and your voice is equally as large.
If I factor all of these points together, I can’t help but think of the amazing adults you are all going to become (or are already becoming), and how you are going to lead the world without fear. You will have the plight of those less fortunate heavy on your minds as you watch them struggle through this pandemic; as inequalities come into focus in ways we wish we didn’t have to see, but that we need to see to make better. Let that guide you ethically in all that you do.
So, to the class of 2020, please continue to be hopeful and fierce about securing your futures. Go to university and train up in your fields with all of your passion and energy. Know something about science if you are a social scientist, future engineers and doctors, take a philosophy course; artists and musicians, we need the joy and creativity you bring to the world now more than ever. You will all be working together in a complex but exciting future to solve the worlds problems while continuing to show the people that beauty and goodness is alive and well.
I think about you all every day and I can’t wait to celebrate the class of 2020 in a few short weeks; keep going hard with your studies, you are almost there! You got this and this is (still) YOUR year!
Dr. E 🙂