What do you say to the graduating class of 2021?
Really? There’s no other group of high schoolers out there who can relate to enduring a full school year of pandemic restrictions, at home learning, and an extremely minimised cap-and-gown ceremony.
The class of 2020, as difficult as those first few months were, really only experienced the tip of the iceberg.
This year’s grads have endured an entire school year – and then some – having to wear masks, staying away from friends, learning outside the classroom, and juggling fear and worriment about the safety of loved ones with the extra-uncertain future their lives have been confronted with.
Young people – Generation Z – are constantly being berated in the media about their technology use and ripped apart by pundits for their thoughts and beliefs on, well, just about any topic, from musical tastes to the slang they use.
I don’t have kids, so maybe I’m out of the loop. But I can tell you, there’d be no way we’d obey restrictions as they have. Mask-less bush parties and class walkouts would have been abundant.
Teens on their home stretch of primary school have been more than respectful – even though so much enjoyment and freedom has been taken from them.
True, there have been many obstacles for youth to climb over in the past century.
The Second World War scooped up many brave young men – some who were still far from graduating – and flung them across the globe to fight. Thousands did not get to have a future.
Students learned the duck and cover method in case there was ever a nuclear bomb that threatened to annihilate humanity. Hiding under a wooden desk apparently provided shelter from the apocalypse.
There have been graduates entering the workforce during recessions, drafts, terrorist attacks, and countless other global strife. Actually, come to think of it, there has hardly been, if any, peaceful, perfect moments to leave school and begin adulthood.
But the comforts provided by 21-century living are negated by the issues that have made the future more uncertain for youngsters more than ever.
School shootings have been on a steady rise in the past two decades – putting staff and students on a fearful edge.
We hear scientists saying we have already hit a point of no return when it comes to climate change; the plant may be inhabitable sooner than we think.
Post Secondary costs have skyrocketed to bank account breaking levels.
If you do manage to take out school loans or cover the tab with scholarships – there’s no guarantee for work. In fact, just about the only guarantee is that you won’t be working in the field you want if you enroll.
Forget about owning a home.
Our own country is now grappling with the shedding image of our do-gooder “sorry” shtick; it may have been a false illusion all along while our past – and present – is a whole lot darker than we ever thought.
Through a global pandemic as a cherry on top, and you’ve got a recipe for grim times. Even the most cheerful can’t hold out much hope, can they?
All of these things were happening when I graduated, but they were nowhere near the forefront. School shootings and global warming were barely an afterthought that was occasionally mentioned. We even had the swine flu that year, but a quick, unquestioned vaccine jab solved everything with a few weeks.
I’m supposed to write phrases like “if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything” or “follow your heart” and “change the world.”
There is no way to predict too terribly much. Life can and will change in a simple snap and throw everything into disarray.
I will say, don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop trying. And don’t think that what the future holds for you is all pandemics, violence, and debt.
And for heaven’s sake, class of 2021, don’t ever let any adult accuse you of having an easier time than they did when they were in school.
Despite what they have told you, they did not have to walk barefoot, both ways, uphill, in the snow, to school.
Just imagine the looks you’ll get when you tell children you weren’t allowed to go to school, wore masks, and came dangerously short to running out of toilet paper.
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