Dear Class of 2020:
Here’s the bad news: You may have felt a little ripped off this year from your pomp in your circumstances, and rightly so. You didn’t get your usual rites of passages: for you, that may have meant missing your prom, your honor day, walking across the stage in your Harry Potter gear and rocking your commencements. After all that hard work, long nights, and toil, all many of you got was a video from a bunch of talking heads and if you were lucky, a Zoom chat with your class for your final ceremonies. (BTW, if you missed out on a commencement speaker, here are Oprah’s, James Patterson’s — even LeBron and Malala have one. I also really love these older speeches by Will Ferrell and Steve Jobs. I hope to see many others step up and also give speeches this year via YouTube, and you can check the #GraduateTogether hashtag.**)
(And if you don’t want to read this — here’s a mini preview below. The full video of this speech/post is over at my podcast Facebook Fanpage, The Edutainer.)
Despite the setbacks, we’re all counting our blessings through this mess called the coronavirus outbreak that has temporarily shut down our lives, and here’s the good news: There is both an “I” and a “Me” in pandemic — the me is just backwards.
What do I mean by this? That…here’s the good news….all bets are off. The way the world worked in the past has rebooted. EVERYTHING is now up for debate and discussion, like:
- Do we all really need to go to another place outside of our homes to make a living? How do we even work anymore?
- Do we all really need to work 40 hours per week, a relic left over from the last industrial revolution?
- What makes us happy? Fulfilled?
- What truly gives us joy in the little things — like spending time with family, making our meals, or living with one another, together?
- What do we really need/want to do in order to survive, thrive, and how do we want to spend your time with, and for/with whom?
- What do we truly, individually value?
If you were a student who really liked to get the “answer” from your professor or teacher, you needed the rubric, or the 20 steps to find the answer, again: bad news: none of us really has/ve the rubric right now. (Hint: Some may act like they do, but they really don’t.) But, if you’re down with shaking up the box, opening it up, taking out the contents of your life, and kicking said box to the curb, welcome to your best life ever: because you’re going to be able to put the I and/or Me into this pandemic and invent your very own customized future, without a lot of constraints of the past.
That, to me, has been exciting!
One of my favorite book series when I was a kid was Choose Your Own Adventure. Why did I love them? Because the story could have unfolded a million different ways! Based upon your free will and choice, you could have ended up at a very different spot in the story, based solely upon your choices.
Right now, you get to do this with your very own life! Chaos and meltdowns can lead to exciting things — like WhatsApp, Slack, Venmo, Pinterest and Instagram! All these companies came after the 2008 great recession — another era you and/or your parents lived through to get to today. Think about it — what do you see the world with soft eyes around? What’s missing for you? Chances are, that same thing could be missing for others.
Which leads me to my favorite “doing” quote, by Toni Morrison:
“If there’s a book* you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
*Just substitute the word “book” for whatever it is that you’re passionate about. Like: cause, project, class, program, job, career, place, thing, whatever! I’ve used this to publish all of my books, and I’ve published more than a dozen now.
Y-O-U are part of this grand opportunity right now. You can choose your very own adventure. You were here as we all are for a reason — what is it? That may take some hard knocks to figure out. (That’s the ‘me’ backwards part in the word pandemic.) We have record unemployment, people are sick and dying due to a mysterious illness that we’re working fast and furiously to find a remedy for, and now all of us are slowly coming out of our sheltering in place to find a new world order — with some steep trade offs. Like, sacrificing our health and well being for other important items, like a job to feed our families, privacy, and even freedom. The ride is bumpy, it won’t be easy all the time, and you’ll get frustrated, PO’d and angry at times.
Use that fuel to get to the next place — better, stronger, mightier, and ready to roll your sleeves up and dig in. Channel the rage into something positive. Take your crazy dreams and write them into a story (this is what Stephenie Meyer of Twilight did). The universe owes you, just like all of us — nothing, including tomorrow. So, make sure you make today and every day you have here count. We need you right now, and your best, most authentic self to show up and create this new world order with the rest of us. Maximize the weirdness too. And DOUBLE congrats to you if you chose or are taking a gig on the front lines — like my colleagues in healthcare, or in any other front line work. Thank you.
Congratulations to the class of 2020!
I have a small gift for you, since you kind of got gypped a bunch this year. You can download my latest ebook for free right now as my graduation gift, since we couldn’t be together this year to see you in your HP garb. Just go to this link and in the coupon code section, type in “covidgrad”, no quotes, all one word, until June 30, 2020 and receive the free download at no cost to you. That’s it. Read my latest collection of essays for free and enjoy. If one grad finds one nugget of something useful in this gift, even better. (And if you already graduated, the code works for you, too. 😉)
Erin L. Albert is an author, pharmacist, lawyer, podcaster, and works for Apex Benefits. Opinions above and in the video are hers alone, and not necessarily those of any company she represents or works for at this time. A special congratulations to her new alumni colleagues at: Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Butler University, Shenandoah University, and Concordia University Wisconsin.
**Note that some graduations can be reimagined even better. Check out what they’re doing in Speedway, Indiana in the link above.