Graduation ceremonies — or the closest thing we can get in a pandemic — are happening all over the area this week. Communities have banners honoring seniors who were robbed of their usual graduation celebrations. It’s an odd version of the end of the school year. Which is only fitting for 2020.
I graduated in 2000. When I graduated, we were surprised to learn that the world didn’t end because the computers forgot what year it was like they were locked in a Jumanji game for 100 years. Funny thing, though, 2020 is more like a Jumanji game that 2000 was. I remember 1999, people stockpiling and panicking, religious leaders begging for more money, people blaming the government for a cover-up, a contentious election…
Yes, that was 1999. I had to double-check. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But 1999-2000 didn’t have COVID-19, riots, murder hornets, cannibal rats, blood-stealing monkeys…
I wonder what 2040 will look like. If the world loses its mind every 20 years, that one ought to be a doozy!
The Class of 2020 may have been robbed of traditional rites of passage for American teenagers becoming (almost) adults, but they sure have a lot of stories to tell. They also got the chance to see their communities come together to support them, which is something we all should be proud of.
Yes, technically, graduation celebrates the end of the easiest time of their lives — when their parents take care of them and all they have to do is worry about grades and developing as a social animal. But we adults know that it is a time-honored rite of passage. It’s a moment that marks their passage from childhood to adulthood. We don’t have very many rites of passage in our culture anymore. We have small ones — getting a hunting licence, getting a driver’s licence, etc. — but this one is the biggest many of these kids will get until their wedding. And the communities recognized that significance, so they did banners, drive-through parades, and drive-in graduations. The communities did the best they could with a bad situation, which is exactly what we’re supposed to do.
As adults, we need to show the next generation (who are not millennials, by the by — we’re in our 30s now) that when strange and unprecedented things happen, a little flexibility and ingenuity is what is necessary to keep the world running. We didn’t let COVID-19 derail everything about our society. And we’ll get back to some form of normal — maybe a safer, less-germy normal. And that’s what I hope we taught the next generation through this. I hope they don’t see the racial inequality, the violence, the baby-fit-throwing of refusing to wear a mask in public, or the political arguments. What I hope they remember is that a community set aside the madness of 2020 for a little bit to find ways to show their children that they matter. The messages of unity and support should outweigh the madness and hatred. Like the police officers marching with the protesters in some cities, a little kindness and unity can go a long way. That’s what we should tell our children to focus on.
That brings me to my point. Class of 2020, yes, there are horrible things going on in the world. Now’s the time for you to see the bad and the good and determine that when 2040 comes, you will be a generation known for more good than bad. Be better than those of us who came before you. We’re trying our best, but as you can see from burning cities around the US, we’ve fallen short. But we are capable of good and unity, so focus on that instead and watch our successes. You can learn from both our mistakes and victories, and you can build on the foundation of the good that we’re trying to make. Make it what your generation is known for.
Good luck. We’re all counting on you.