Dear Graduate of the Class of 2020,
The last few months have been tough. You’ve worked hard (maybe partied hard too) and had been looking forward to capping off your years in college with all the pomp the occasion deserved.
Alas, life has taken a different turn.
And so now, as you close out this chapter of your life and look toward the next, the landscape ahead is even more uncertain than it already was.
In times like this, when dire headlines bombard from every direction, it’s only natural for fears to grow loud. Yet amid all the uncertainty, one thing is certain – the unwritten chapters ahead hold extraordinary opportunity for new beginnings and bold possibilities.
Will you face more challenges? Of course. Will your plans unfold just as want? Unlikely. But do you have everything required to adapt and thrive in whatever brave new world emerges the other side of this pandemic? Without a doubt.
My third child is graduating high school this week. Virtually. Like you, he’s had moments he’s felt like he drew the short straw. My oldest son graduates from college next year. My daughter the year after. Did they draw a longer one? The truth is that you drew the perfect straw for you. Because the path you’re on right now holds exactly what you need to learn to forge your own unique path ahead.
Breakdowns always precede breakthroughs.
This is as true on the personal level as it is on the collective. You happen to be graduating in the midst of a global breakdown of a magnitude impossible to imagine a few short months ago (though I get that February feels like ten years ago right now).
The breakthroughs ahead will be the stuff your kids and grandkids will one day study in history texts. Their grandkids too. And you – yes, you!- get to be entering life’s grand arena in this seminal time in which the seeds for profound change will begin to blossom. In how we work and connect and collaborate and create. In ways well beyond my own imagination.
So dare to set a bold vision as you enter that arena. One that inspires you even if it scares you. Believe in your dreams. Defy your doubts. Trust that if you can imagine it, then you can do it. As Goethe once wrote:
“Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Yet as you write your plans, use a pencil and let go your expectations on how the path ahead should unfold. Your plans may be linear. Life is not.
It is near impossible for you, at this early point on your journey, to fully comprehend just what an extraordinary life you can create for yourself fifteen, much less fifty, years from now. So as you look to the future, to the blank canvas awaiting the brushstrokes that will one day form the masterpiece of your life, embrace a sense of adventure and a hearty dose of humor. Laughter – at yourself or the wild ‘plot twists’ life sometimes dishes out – can be a potent tonic for weathering turbulent times better and emerging better off.
So too can quiet introspection. Albert Camus once wrote that “in the midst of winter, I finally learned, that within me lay an invincible summer.” That summer lives in each of us. Yet in the busy whirlwind of life we can lose touch with the quiet strength within us. So whenever you feel buffeted by life’s storms, look within for the answers you seek and lay deeper roots into your own resilience, courage and strength.
Anchor yourself to the values you want your life to stand for; to your commitment to doing the best you can with what you have – honoring your gifts and heeding the quiet whispers that urge you toward the braver path. Those gentle tugs and subtle inklings are not by chance. They are the universe pointing you toward your own true north, the only path upon which you will never get lost.
Be warned though: this path is not always the most comfortable. At least in the short term. Embrace its discomfort and press on. That knot in your stomach is your fear doing what it’s wired to do: steer you away from the risk of falling short, losing face or being ‘uncovered’ as inadequate. Fear will go to any lengths when it comes to protecting you from pain (it’s not one for delayed gratification).
Yet left unchecked, fear will keep you living too safe, tiptoeing timidly through life, drawing neatly inside the lines, and holding back from the very actions that would help you realize how little reason you ever had to be afraid.
While I wish I could tell you otherwise, fear is a travelling companion you will not shake. Yet it is also your teacher, your guide, and your compass. Your challenge is to discern between the fears that are serving you from those which are stifling you; driving you to dim your light, play small and settle for less than the wild’n’wondrous life you are capable of living.
At people reach the final pages of their life, it’s the risks they did not take that they regret far more than those they did. So harness the energy of fear as your tailwind. Rather than fear-casting what might happen if you take the risk, ask yourself what you should fear if you don’t. We humans fail far more from timidity than we ever do from over-daring. Heed the timeless truth uttered by Tacitus twenty centuries ago that ‘the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’…Insert Text Above
As I wrote in You’ve Got This!:
Each time you act in the presence of fear. you dilute its power and grow your own.
We are each walking our own hero’s journey. You are embarking on your next leg at a time that invites you to step up to the plate of life in ways you didn’t see coming but are totally equipped for. Trust ‘your wings’ to lift you high and carry you far. Roll up your sleeves and take the ultimate risk – backing yourself, your dreams and your one-of-a-kind brand of brilliance. In the long march of time, no one has ever been born with your unique combination of talents, personality, passion and opportunity. No one ever will. That’s pretty cool.
Twenty years from now many from the Class of 2020 will have accomplished extraordinary things. There is precisely not one reason why you cannot be among them. Not one. So, let go your comparisons with what everyone else is doing. Your peers have their own path to forge and hurdles to overcome; their strengths to sharpen and talents to share. Just get on with making the very most of your own.
Run your own best race.
And those times when you slip up, mess up or lose your way, step away from the hurly-burly of life and tune in to those quiet whispers. They’ve got your back.
Most of all, remember that life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. If those history books taught you anything, it should be that the human spirit is an indomitable force that will rise and rise and rise again.
Your spirit is no exception.
When fear runs high, the need for courage runs higher.
This world is hungry for courage seekers to challenge the old, reimagine the new and defy the dogmas of this stormy time. So in the midst of the fear storm swirling around you, there is nothing more important for you to trust yourself, defy your doubts, roll up your sleeves and work on being the bravest, boldest and most self-expressed version of the person you have it within you to become.
You’ve got this Graduate of 2020.
Live from that truth and you will come to discover how little reason you ever had to doubt otherwise.
Margie Warrell is the author of You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself
Dear Class of 2020,
YOU’VE GOT THIS!