A Letter to the Class of 2020

Class of 2020To the Class of 2020,

Yesterday, we found out that schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. This news comes after weeks of being inundated with increased warnings, demands for quarantine, and world news that seems to grow more devastating by the minute. But this. This is the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for many of us. With a high school senior in my own house, the news created a seismic shift in the atmosphere. After holding up fairly well during more than a week of social distancing and family quarantine, we all hit the wall in a large cosmic explosion.

Since the first school closings, my senior has handled it like a champ. After all, it was only a couple of weeks, right? We tossed around the possibility of lengthier closings, we discussed rumors of schools that had already cancelled prom, we lamented some already cancelled field trips, but graduation? That was a foregone conclusion – of course, my senior who had worked so hard for the last 13 years would have the chance to walk across the stage and be recognized for her achievements. Of course, she would not be denied this hard-earned rite of passage.

But as we all now know, this “thing” is going to get worse before it gets better. And the reality struck home for a lot of us yesterday.

I read post after post of heartbroken parents wondering how to comfort grieving seniors who were staring into a chasm of loss. The loss of “final” moments with friends, the loss of their last sports’ season or school play, the loss of goodbyes to the teachers who often gave “too much homework” but who had impacted their lives so deeply, and perhaps most of all, the loss of memories that would never be made. And as my high school senior sat on the kitchen floor with tears streaming down her face and said to me, “Mom, I’m just so sad,” I felt my own heart burst with the helpless knowledge that there was nothing I could do to make it better.

And I can’t make it better, but I can remind you all of a few things.

Class of 2020, you were the generation born in the wake of one our nation’s greatest tragedies. You don’t remember 9/11. You don’t remember the grief and fear that gripped us as a nation. But you also don’t remember how we all came together as one and declared that we would not break. We clung to one another and the new life, innocence, and beauty your arrival brought was what so many of us needed to regain our balance in a world that had turned upside down. You were a gift without equal and you restored our faith in ways that cannot be measured.

Unfortunately, a lot of us have lost our focus in the years since. And that means that many of you only remember the years that have followed 9/11 – the wars, the environmental stresses, the economic upheavals, and the divisive political climates.

But I want to remind you of where you started and please don’t forget this…

You, Class of 2020, have been called for something special.

You were born in a time of chaos, but you were also born under a banner of strength and pride. You came into an uncertain world, and now we, your parents, are releasing you into an even more uncertain world. But this is your time. You have been called to be the game changers and ground breakers and what you’re experiencing now is only shaping you for the fight. You may or may not get to walk a stage, but please know that our eyes are on you all the same.

Today, we recognize you, Class of 2020 – all of you. The ones who have worked so hard to get here, whether you coasted to the finish line or crawled across on bleeding hands and knees.

This time does NOT negate what you have already accomplished, rather it only reinforces the calling to which you were born. As we come out on the other side of this, my hope for you is that you will carry with you always the lessons you are learning right now. For if you do, you will have a resilience that defies your years. You will know how to stand tall when others around you fall. You will know how to innovate when others are stagnant. And you will know how to find beauty in the world when others only see despair.

You are losing a lot right now and it’s ok to mourn the losses. But you are gaining a unique perspective, and with it, an opportunity to be agents of change like the world has never seen. So carry on Class of 2020. You are our future and it is going to be bright.