Dearest Graduating Class,
I graduated high school sixteen years ago. As many of you already know, the passage of time is a strange thing. Consider the time between kindergarten and now. It took both forever and yet no time at all. That part never really changes. In fact, as your life gets busier time seems to move faster. It fills with more obligations and we forget to slow down. Suddenly, I look back and nearly two decades has passed since I was in your shoes. But time is a strange thing – it feels like forever ago and also like barely anytime has passed.
While I am a Millennial and you are Gen Z, we share many of the same struggles. We exist is a digital world as much as we do in a physical world. We have a desire for higher education but know it comes with a high price tag and does not open the doors that were promised. We know that the American Dream is not achievable by hard work alone- it takes connections, privilege, or sometimes just crazy luck. We know that previous generations have left us with a mess – financially, politically, and environmentally. Many of us struggle with some form of mental health issue. However, we also share some advantages. I think we can agree that negatively generalizing a whole generation based on the actions of a few is idiotic. We are more compassionate, open minded, and accepting than those that came before us. We have the blood of activists running through our veins. I look forward to working together with you in the future to improve our world.
There are some major differences between the class of 2004 and 2020. My classmates and I did not have to end our senior year in lock-down due to a global pandemic. We went on spring break. We shopped for prom dresses. We posed for pictures; creating lasting memories of our high school experience. We danced the night away without a care in the world. We planned senior trips. We had senior skip day and parties. We attended our graduation. I put on my blue cap and gown. I proudly walked across the stage and claimed my diploma that I worked hard for. I had a great high school experience and the last few months were full of events that I will never forget.
You have been robbed by circumstances that are out of our control. I am so very sorry. It is easy for us as adults to forget that these events are important. During the pandemic many of us are struggling too. Those of us in the medical field are risking our lives. Pregnant women are delivering babies without their partners. People are dying without their family. We can easily say that the things that you are missing are trivial in the long run. To just say life isn’t fair, suck it up. But the thing is, this is YOUR life. You have spent your entire life working up to this. If I were to look at it from your perspective, I would be devastated. Maybe more so knowing the wonderful experiences that I had. I wish that we could make things better for you.
Unfortunately, things will remain uncertain for quite a while. All of your future plans may have to be adjusted. Things will not go back to the normal that you knew. Now that you are a full fledged adult you will feel the fallout like the rest of us. But we will recover and there will be a new normal. This pandemic will become the “when I was a kid, I had to walk ten miles in the snow” story that you will tell your children and grandchildren. The Millennials’s early days were not easy either. We experienced 9/11, the Iraq war, and The Great Recession. If we can get through those tragedies, I know that you can get through this. Please know that your feelings are valid. It is ok to grieve for the experiences that you are missing. We are here to support you.
Class of 2004