One of the sadder side-effects of this pandemic (far less than the tolls of death and illness, and economic pain, but still real) is what it’s done to the final year of school for so many students. Athletes unable to shine in the sports they’ve mastered, performers not getting the chance to act and sing in the roles they’ve worked so hard on, romances not getting to show off at their proms… and everyone missing out on the big deal – to celebrate graduation.
Now of course, they’ll still get their diplomas. No one’s taking that away. It’s not like one of those dreams I’ve seen Handsome wake from in a trembling sweat, where he has to retake classes in his high school! It’s just that ceremonies and rituals have a great meaning for you humans, and a whole generation is missing out on this one.
But are they really? Aren’t they experiencing a different graduation, far more profound than the goofy pomposity where people wear flat hats? They have the whole current world watching as they graduate into a whole new world, a changed reality.
And instead of listening to (probably) boring speeches by their teachers or somebody they’ve never heard of who graduated from their school before they were born, they’re watching new art forms and technologies bloom, made for them.
But wait, I’m not just talking about the 18-year-olds, the Class of 2020. I’m barking at the entire human race out there. You ALL are graduating! You have finished learning whatever you could in the Pre-Coronavirus world, and are being released into a new one – one you don’t fully understand, with new responsibilities, new hopes, and new fears. It’s what high-school and university graduates have always experienced, but now it’s everyone.
Just like all high schoolers ever, all of humanity has felt victimized these last months, like the world expects everything of them and isn’t giving them the support they need. And I’m not going to tell anyone they’ve been wrong to feel this. But the change is on.
And just as university graduates always have, you’re being told you’re expected to be responsible leaders now, while deep down you know you’re not prepared for that.
So you current students (or for those who’re older, looking back on when you were), when you were in school, did you ever cheat on a Biology exam without learning the material? Did you squeak through a History class without really understanding it? Did you drop that Math course halfway before it was done?
Too bad. You’re out of school. You’re heading into the world with exactly the knowledge you have. No more…
…But also… No less! You are more prepared than you know, and have learned thousands of lessons along your awkward journey, just like everyone else.
So Congratulations, and Happy Graduation!
But when I say that you’re graduating, what does that really mean? If you could attend a ceremony now, what would it really be about, in your life?
This week, I got an amazing letter from tuktuk, one of my Pack members. It said more about the meaning of graduation than any speech I’ve ever heard. And it’s just a description of a… well I’ll let her tell you…
I had a dream. At my school, when we graduate, we have a formal farewell, where teachers talk about the students. In my dream, we were having that ceremony in the playground. I was standing with a friend D, and my other friends were also there.
And suddenly I saw the younger version of a friend, and D started calling him out, and he waved back. Then we realized that all of our younger versions were playing in the round. So, I went to find my younger version. I was having a hard time finding her. Then, the bell rang and all the kids were lined up and there I found myself.
I called her out and talked to her. I asked her to not to repeat the mistakes I did when I was young, and to be happy. And she asked me to do the same, and not to look back, and to focus on my future.
Then everyone were gathering in the ground, and I saw my mother from a distance and wanted to show her my younger version. I went to her and showed her mini-me, and then I asked her to click a picture of me with her.
Then I woke up. The dream was strange and made me happy. I want to know the meaning behind my dream.
Well, as you can guess, I told her that I thought that dream held more meaning than this doggy brain can possibly grasp. But I just LOVE the idea that the most important guest at a graduation isn’t your friends or your family, but you – the you of your past, and the you of your future.
What would you tell that younger you if you could today? And what would they tell you? What would you tell your future you? And what might they say to you?
The advice is going to be different for everyone. Did you spend high school studying all the time and avoiding a social life? Well if so, wouldn’t you tell that version of you to put the books away some night and go make a fool of yourself at a party? Or did you spend school playing video games and sneaking out to vape with friends? Maybe you’d tell that you, “Stop wasting your time! Do something useful!”
And what would you tell the you that’s moving forward now? I think tuktuk’s advice is great, to focus on the future and not the mistakes of the past (though of course they’ll keep coming back, as they always do!).
For example, did you accidentally go out last week without a mask? Did you hug a friend when you weren’t supposed to? Well, you could focus on “I’m such an air-head! I could have caused someone’s death! I’m so horrible!” Or you could say, “Hmm… I need to learn from that. Maybe I’ll get an extra mask and keep it in my pocket in case I forget again.” And “I need to stay more focused, and not hug people though I want to so badly!” That’s a much healthier way to deal with those screwups.
Because, my friends, every one of us is our present, our past, and our future, right now. I am so in awe of the end of tuktuk’s dream – getting a picture of herself with her younger self, taken by her mother. What a great definition of your eternal self!
I recommended to her, and I do to all of you, to put some time aside and follow through on that idea. However you’d do it. Draw a picture of you and your younger self. Or use your brilliance on computers to create a photograph of you two together. Or maybe write a play where you two meet and talk. Whatever you create will be your truth, right now. And maybe add your future self in there as well.
The world is new every day, my friends. And each of you get to be a part of creating what it will be. This virus will go down, or maybe even go away. What matters is what the post-pandemic world will be. And that’s up to you.
Talk to your past, your future, your parents and friends, and most importantly to your present selves. Whether you’re 9 or 99, the most exciting moment ever, full of more potential than ever before, is right now.
So throw that goofy hat in the air, give a joyous yell, and leap into it! It’s YOURS!