Features In Focus

An open letter to the class of 2020

Graduating from university, like one’s wedding, or the birth of a child, is one of a handful of milestones one always remembers. When asked what our graduation was like, the class of 2020, now and forever, regardless of what they studied or where, will all be stuck giving the same answer. “We were the Coronavirus year.” We will then be met with sympathetic smiles and an awkward moment of silence as the conversation moves on to other topics.

During the past few weeks, as we’ve been hit with wave after wave of distressing news about death tolls and a mass shooting, and terms like PPE and community spread have entered our vocabulary, many of us are also navigating moving in the midst of a pandemic. We’re looking up road closures to see if it’s even possible to drive that U-Haul of four (or more) years of accumulated stuff back to our parents’ places, complicated by the fact that it’s a lot harder to sell off used furniture for fear of contagion.

Once we’ve dealt with all that, with everything closed and cancelled, we’ve settled into an uncomfortable wait. Waiting for things to get back to normal, whatever that will look like in the post-pandemic world. Waiting to see what the next step is, whether that’s grad school or job hunting, daunting at the best of times, made more complicated by the fact that little hiring is happening in our fields right now.

Many of us hoped for some time off after the mad dash of handing in our final papers, projects and exams the last few weeks of the semester, but not like this. Many of us are used to being insanely busy, juggling full-time course loads, part-time job(s), being on teams or student council or a part of a club. We suddenly find ourselves with a bunch of unstructured time on our hands. Time we swore if we ever had, we’d use to write that book or start that podcast, or learn an instrument. Maybe most aspects of your life haven’t changed, no one you know personally has fallen ill, and you’re really enjoying this time. That’s great.

It’s also ok if your motivation to tackle new projects has taken a serious hit. Maybe you’re an extrovert, like me, who’s found the lack of social interaction to be really draining. Maybe you’re providing full-time care to children who are suddenly home all the time. Or maybe the weight of living through a global pandemic with no real ability to change the outcome other than staying home is just a lot to process. I know for me, it is. It’s ok if you’re not at the peak of your productivity right now. Living through a pandemic isn’t a vacation, it’s a collective traumatic experience. No one asked those that survived the Blitz if they’d perfected their sourdough recipes or started a new business while the houses of those around them were destroyed. Just keeping on keeping on was enough.

As our diplomas arrive unceremoniously in the mail, and we walk to our mailboxes instead of across a stage, we can at least take comfort in knowing that this pandemic won’t last forever, and neither will the bleak job market. When the dust settles, we’ll be armed with our degrees, and all the other experiences and life skills we learned in college.

They’ll endure.

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