Dear Class of 2020,
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
Not for you. Not for your family. I’m truly sorry.
When you heard that school was closed for the rest of the year, I imagine many of you were devastated, confused, scared, or even angry. There might have been a part of you that was relieved you don’t have the stress of a big ceremony or reception. It still might hurt that you are missing your last season in your favorite sport or your part in the canceled spring musical.
Or maybe high school was rough and you are grateful to put it behind you. Maybe distance learning is your jam and you are doing just fine.
I hope you know that whatever you are feeling right now is ok. You can’t wrongly mourn the loss of what you expected. You traded time with classmates and teachers for pajama pants and Zoom, prom and graduation for toilet paper shortages and conspiracy theories.
No matter what, it didn’t turn out like anyone expected.
It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was much like you–eighteen years old, and full of hope and excitement. Nervously ready to spread my wings and find out things worth knowing on my own terms. I didn’t know what to study or what career to work toward, but I wanted to change the world. What I didn’t know was that I already had.
So have you.
Mister Rogers once said, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
You have already made a difference in the world of so many people. Just as you are right now.
First and foremost, you have changed the world for your parents.
You’ll never know how much they love you until you have a child of your own. You mean everything to them and they so much from you. This is so hard for them, too. Hug your mamas. They need it.
You have changed the world for your siblings, too.
As crazy as they might make you, they have learned things they’d never know had they not gotten to grow up with you. Take care of one another. You won’t regret it.
You have at least one teacher, but probably a lot more, from the past 12 years who still tells a story about that funny thing you said or did.
They still wonder how you are doing and if they did enough for you. I know, because some of your bright smiles graced my own 3rd-grade classroom nine years ago. I still smile when I think of you because you made me a better teacher and a better person. Your current teachers miss you and your past teachers are proud of you. You’ve changed our worlds.
So, graduates of this crazy class of 2020, consider one last assignment.
Take time to think about the special people in your life who, as Mister Rogers puts it, “loved you into being.” Every one of us has people who have helped us become who we are. Think of those who always cared and wanted what’s best for you. Throughout these years of growing up, there are people who have loved you into being the person you are today. Take some time to think about how their love has changed your world. They would be so happy to know you thought of them. They still love you, you know. Just as you are.
As you embark on your future and desire to become someone important, remember that you already are and always have been. The world needs what only you can give. From your friends, families, former teachers, and community as a whole, you are loved. We are so proud of you!
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” – Mister Rogers
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