Milestones offer us the rare opportunity to stand still for a moment and reflect on how far we’ve come – or to see how far we have left to go. Since pre-school, more than six-million highschool and college seniors have been on a steady climb, working relentlessly toward the coveted milestone of walking across the commencement stage. 

But the class of 2020 is gradu-waiting.

They are waiting for the promise of tossing their caps in the air, with all their friends and families watching. They are waiting for closure, for the time to reflect on how far they’ve come. They’re waiting to savor those last moments with their peers. The milestone is less about the pomp, and more about the permission to live in the moment. To celebrate and be celebrated- even if just briefly, before the inevitable “what’s next?” questions start firing and the next milestones are set.

From the time they utter their first word or show some kind of gift, with love in our hearts, and all the best intentions, we set a course of milestones for our kids to navigate. Entering them early into the human “race”.

But what is the tipping point where milestones feel more like “I’m not enough yets” and traditions become expectations, a one-size-fits-all with little room for individuality? From SATs, to Sororities and Frats, the HS/college experience has been so institutionalized and woven into expectations and rites of passage, that it is difficult to distinguish whether they do because they want to or because they are supposed to.

What is clear though, is that the class of 2020 needs time to breathe. They need space to think. And with no clear path to follow, they have an opportunity to create their own. 

I recently surveyed a cross-section of highschool and college seniors, and not surprisingly, they are disappointed. Some feel hopeless and lost, and even angry. It’s understandable. They dutifully followed all the markers, passed all the milestones, and were promised a great big finish, a launch into the next phase of their journey.

What really stood out to me in the survey though, was the incredible strength of this next generation. Despite all of their systems being disrupted, I was impressed with what they have already learned. In the short time since they’ve been out of school – since they’ve been out of the race – these brilliant young people have taken the opportunity to acknowledge their feelings and dig deeper, to recognize and discover things about themselves that you can’t learn when you aren’t stopping long enough to recognize the growth. 

One college senior shared:

“Even though I may THINK I’m okay, and if I TELL myself that I’m okay, that doesn’t mean I AM okay. And that’s okay!

A highschool grad observed:

“I am capable of letting go of things that do not bring me joy.

And another college grad discovered:

“I’ve done a lot of reflecting and found things I agree and don’t agree with about myself and others”

I asked them what adjectives others would use to describe them, and which ones they’d use to describe themselves. Seniors, I’ve taken the liberty to put your adjectives together in two ways to remind you how powerful you all are. One is clear, the other scrambled. I invite you to reflect on which one speaks to you and why. There are no right answers.

Class of 2020 I see you. I celebrate you, and I implore you to CELEBRATE YOURSELVES! Remember your words and harness your strengths, create your own milestones; design your own futures. Make new roads – don’t worry about fixing the old. That’s on us. 

So what are you waiting for? <3