To The Class of 2020,
I’m really sorry. I’m sorry that you’ll miss your athletic seasons and art performances, and all of the big things that you’ve been working toward. This situation is totally, brutally unfair. You’ve pulled the shortest straw out of the shortest bunch. I graduated in 2008, into the Great Recession. I thought that was crummy, but this is really, really so much shittier.
This will follow you, it will be folded into your generational identity. The COVID-19 Class of 2020. Psychologists, economists and sociologists will write about the impact of this experience on you, and your life trajectory. This is very rapidly becoming a key milestone in your life story.
I understand your impulse to want to scream, rebel, and reject this reality. I can imagine your virtual classes are underwhelming to you, your internet spotty, your parents disturbing you from the living room. I get the desire to sneak off and chill with your friends, to get cheap tickets and go somewhere together, to hold on to some semblemce of that senior spring promise.
All I can say is -- I see you staying home and flattening the curve. Thank you.
We always look to young people, to college students in particular, to be a force of idealism. To have zest for and belief in a better world. Throughout history young people have always been a source of inspiration, and creators of positive change. In many ways, this is the purpose of college, to teach you to think in larger, more community oriented ways. To teach you how to respond resiliently to uncertain occasions.
If there was a physical war, I suspect many of you would heroically sign up to serve. When there is a protest, I know many of you raise your voices and join the march.
This moment - your moment - is calling for a different kind of action, one that I understand goes against every instinct in your body. You’re wired for collective action, for joining together, the energy of parties and concerts, of being in a brigade of soldiers or crowd of protesters. And what you’re being called to do is to disperse, isolate, distance. There is nothing natural about it, and yet we need your energy for it, and leadership through it.
You can help your parents to clean and cook. Maybe you can paint the garage or mow the lawn. You can deliver groceries for the elderly who need to keep even greater social distances. If someone you know is sick, you can (with much hand washing) help to care for them. I know these aren’t the parties, celebrations and peak experiences that you were promised, but they will be appreciated.
You will be asked about this moment often in the future. I’ve never had a job interview in which it hasn’t come up that my career choices were impacted by graduating into the Great Recession (and there have been a lot of interviews). Key milestones are funny like that, they inevitably come up, even when we haven’t chosen them. I have a good story to tell. I moved home to my Mom’s. I took a lousy job from which I was laid off. The thing is, my good story had an impact of one. Me. It ended there. Your good story will have an impact of many. You’ll never know them or see them, but they will be there.
If you need to vent, or burn off frustration and boredom, get in touch. I’d like to hear how you are doing.
Sara, Class of 2008
Founder, The Mindful Applicant
Sara duPont is the Founder of The Mindful Applicant. Through the development of social-emotional skills, students determine their “why” so that the college process becomes a transformation rather than a transaction. Check out their summer program - Brain Alive - to learn how you can develop your self-awareness while you write your common app essay this summer.