Letter to the Class of 2020
Written by: Neena S.
Cap and gown, and instead of donning your tam, you just wear this frown. No walking down the aisles and hearing the crowd call your name as they once again remind parents and loved ones "please wait until all grads have crossed the stage."
"HA! This is MY GRADUATE, y'all gone have to drag me out!" your supporters would say. The beaming joy, the teeming pleasure of seeing you smiling for all your hard work being formally recognized.
Maybe you were the one who barely made it to the finish line, but the first one to break a generational curse. Maybe you were just happy a teacher took the time to invest in your growth and wanted to have that ONE LAST MOMENT to say thank you. Maybe you lost someone in this process and wanted to dedicate that walk to them. Maybe you were valedictorian or salutatorian and had an emotional but funny and reassuring speech planned. Maybe you dropped out, but decided to go back, finish and can't help wishing you'd stayed enrolled so you didn't have to MISS IT.
Miss that moment to sit next to your classmates whether or not you hung out with them every day. There is something about the fact that they went on this journey at the EXACT SAME TIME AS YOU that you wanted to share this ONE MOMENT with them. It's impossible to replicate.
And don't even get me started on classes. I mean you love sleeping in and missing class, but you'd give anything to sit in the class late or early just dishing about the latest drama or news again. You miss running across the campus trying to make it to class on time or running into your friends in the café. You miss office hours and roll calls from your favorite seat. You miss the times the teacher ended class early giving you an extra 15 minute break just to enjoy campus for a second.
If you went to an HBCU, you also miss first Fridays where the greeks were on the yard/quad. You miss the basketball pep rally nights. You miss the last minute house parties, soul food Thursdays, grad week shenanigans, and of course the epic graduations.
You miss the moments where you would hope a snow day would cancel class so you could not go in. You miss the fussing at financial aid and every other department to ensure you were GONNA GRADUATE! You miss sending out the invitations to family members, loved ones and actually taking those pictures during a once in a lifetime moment. You miss graduation dinners. You miss partying and even swag surfing that one good time to bond. You miss dancing the night away. You miss making connections and crushing on your crush from a distance one more time as you both graduate. You miss running around town telling everybody you are a graduate with your cap and gown on, and getting random congratulations. You miss graduation selfies with your friends. You miss graduation photoshoots. You miss being happy to hear them say your name RIGHT FOR ONCE as you go shake that hand and strike a pose. You miss the countdown to the big day! You miss crowds and crowded spaces full of grads. You miss the moment where you might have avoided tripping on stage and walking across gracefully instead. You also might miss when you broke the rules and did a special dance or greek shoutout after they said don't.
How dare coronavirus take so much from you?! Your job, your loved ones, your hangouts, your restaurants, your last moments with people you may never see again, your graduation, your celebrations, your graduation trips, your sanity, your fulfillment, your job offers, your funding, your safety, and your freedom are all victim to this scary reality. Not only is all that happening, but then what happens if you get here and you catch it. That thought alone is frustrating.
I'm here to tell you I cannot take that pain away. I cannot give you a solution. What I can give you is permission to grieve and cry. It's still going to hurt. I mean hurt bad. So, I'm giving you permission to have the courage to cry it out, scream in the shower, and yell and be upset. You have this space here RESERVED JUST FOR YOU! It’s not much to offer you. However, so many people are trying to get you to accept that it’s “NO BIG DEAL because at least you are safe.” I know for you, it’s not that easy. I know you wish to feel that awesome excitement about graduation like the classes before you. I also know you have been waiting for a while. I know but then I don’t really know what it feels like, do I? That's what you want to yell as you “try to make the best of things.” Because it really sucks, and you wish to walk down that aisle once again because that graduation that you cherished is going to happen. I love the virtual stuff too, but I know that’s why you’re a little sad because you wished your school was doing something to assure you that you will still get that “one moment in life” when all of this is finally over. You keep hoping for that email that says as soon as it is safe to walk the aisle, YOU WILL BE INCLUDED!
Here's my RIP GRADUATION letter to you, and I'm still holding out hope that you get that special moment when this is through!
Thank you for listening and CONGRATULATIONS, WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU!!!
P.S. I know it's not the same as walking the aisle, but Obama is speaking at a virtual graduation for high school seniors and all Class of 2020 graduates. So, I hope you check it out and wear your robe and hat/tam and make it VIRTUALLY special for you and your supporters. Read more here.