t’s graduation season once again. And, for me, this is a very special one because I am the father of a graduating high school senior. (Let’s assume he passes this English final this week.) Every graduation season, I like to hum a few bars in this space giving out wisdom to our new graduates, but, this year, it is through a very different lens.
The Class of 2021 graduated, frankly, in March of 2020. It was when the world started shutting down that these high school juniors, at the time, had to adapt to school going virtual and these 17-year-olds having, basically, their lives turned upside down. Sure, school was “virtual,” but these were kids anxious for their senior years and “senioritis.” Let’s say that the last thing on their minds was a one hour zoom meeting with their PE teacher every Thursday.
For most, these kids entered the workforce. My son began working with my brother who builds decks and does construction. Every morning, my high school junior got up, packed his lunchpail and headed out for work. He would do homework in the evenings. Until recently, even things like high school parties and dating were pretty nonexistent. These kids just had to be grownups.
So, I’m in no position to provide advice here. Sure, I am living through the COVID years just like we all are, but at a very different stage in my life. And when I was 18, I was all about school and graduation and pomp and circumstance. The Class of 2021 is all about getting their Dolly Parton on.
I will say this, which should be universal enough to transcend COVID. Don’t focus on the endings you’ll have the next few weeks. Your last final. Your last baseball game. Your last homework assignment. Graduation isn’t the end of anything. It’s the beginning of everything. While you’ve survived the last 17 months, you’ve been marking time. Once it is safe to do so, take graduation not as a finish, but as a starter’s pistol shot.
Your class has been forced to be far more practical than my class 31 years ago. I think this is likely what kids who came out of World War II must’ve felt a little like. Just do what needs to be done. And you’ve done it smartly. My son has an IRA already, for goodness sakes. When I was his age, I was just about to start applying for credit cards so I could get a Spudz McKenzie t-shirt.
You’ve also learned a lesson that took most of us through our 20’s and into our 30’s to learn. Life will take every opportunity to kick you in the balls. This isn’t the lesson. The lesson is how to adapt to whatever comes crashing down around you. Your class completely changed the way you were educated. You learned to adjust how you worked and played, and made friends. And you did it, mostly, without a complaint. It was the grownups who acted like fools the past two years. All the while, you bought Tesla stock and learned to make your own turkey sandwiches to take to work.
So, Class of 2021, if I can leave you with one message, it would be this, I admire the way you’ve handled yourselves and am, frankly, envious. I think in most years, I’d be telling graduates to look to their predecessors and reach for the stars. This year, I feel that many of us can look to your strength, and ask you for some stock tips. You’ve learned that the end isn’t here, that it is just another opportunity to bob and weave with the changes.
Congratulations, Class of 2021. No. Seriously. Do I buy Tesla or Bitcoin? TikTok me.