Dear High School and College Seniors,
You have worked hard for four (plus) years in preparation for a milestone called graduation that puts an exclamation point on your college years.
For most of you, it is just months away. But waaaay before that—there were all the senior traditions of your school that you have been sooo looking forward to—and planning in your mind: senior week, the last formal, photos with your besties in front of the iconic building or statue on your campus; March Madness; club sport championships; SXSW; beach week; etc.
The list is long; idiosyncratic to your school; but secure in your mind and heart as part of how your college years would end.
It’s mid-March and getting closer—so it was just starting to become more real now that Spring Break was underway.
Only Spring Break got ruined this year—because you learned that you weren’t going to have any of that this year.
Whoever Heard of the Coronavirus Anyway?
Not allowed on campus for any reason—including getting your stuff out? Online classes for the rest of the semester?
Cancelation of March Madness, all club sports, and any group gatherings? And although it hasn’t yet been called…the fear of there not even being a graduation.
In the blink of an eye, everything has changed, and not for the better.
It’s not only the loss of what you hoped that last semester would look like, but it’s also the loss of the best part of college: relationships.
Spending time with the underclassmen you have grown so close with—as well as the professors, fellow students, people at your job and volunteering site.
In a micro-second, it has all gone up in smoke.
Will you ever see these people again? How will you say good-bye to them and to four of the most memorable years of your life?
Grieving Sudden Loss
In many respects—it feels like a death—not from a terminal illness that had some forewarning but from a sudden heart attack with no pre-existing condition.
The grief is real.
Your dream will not be realized—and there is such great loss in that. It’s nothing that you have ever seen happen before.
It’s nothing you can imagine, and the impact is huge.
Know that you are not alone in grieving sudden loss the likes of which no one never imagined.
Your parents’ generation and above all lived through 9/11 (and the financial crisis) and struggled with many of the same emotions and effects.
It was instant; it was unimaginable; it changed life as we knew it forever. We walked around in a coma. We were numbed with sadness and disbelief.
And there was a light on the other side. Through all of the unimaginable losses and impacts, 9/11 brought our nation closer together. We started prioritizing more thoughtfully; spending time with those who mattered most in our lives.
We became more choiceful about what we did, where we went, who we spent time with, what we focused on. The rest we allowed to fall by the wayside.
Tragic events change your life, and events that don’t discriminate in who they impact, bring communities and people closer together. Perhaps that closeness was how it was always meant to be.
As a senior, you have become well-acquainted with adulting. And you know that some parts of that rock and other parts of it stink.
You are living another level of adulting-in-realtime… and experiencing how doing so comes with unwelcomed burdens—and will bring unforeseen gifts.
Your parents are deeply sad for your senior year losses —because it’s a loss for them too—not to celebrate you and your classmates in such an important way.
Your graduation is theirs too: we all know it takes a village.
And your parents are also shouldering the burden and inconveniences of COVID-19… impacting them, their workplaces, the jobs of other people, etc.
Learning Lessons From Hardship
They are feeling that stress, too. Some parts of adulting are just less fun than others. But knowing you are not alone in what you are going through, helps. It brings comfort. It heals. And we know it will be okay. We will move forward. Our country always does.
Most stories don’t have a fairy tale ending— but they are beautiful, impactful, life-changing none-the-less. We learn and grow from this thing called life—with its many unexpected twists and turns.
Thank goodness we don’t get what we deserve… because for most of us, it would not be nearly as rich with blessings as the life we live on most days.
You are an amazing generation that will enter the workforce and the world.
With your financial focus and disciplines, your entrepreneurial style and true enjoyment of others… you will now have a new common reference point on your life’s journey called “coronavirus.”
You will find a way to make it worthwhile because you are so relational, creative, and committed to things you care about… and because around lesser losses and inconveniences you have used technology creatively—invented technological solutions to things—and made the world and all of us better.
Know our hearts share your losses—but most importantly, we celebrate with you the best part of what the end of college brought: YOU!
A brighter, stronger, more capable YOU with skinned knees, bruises, and well-healed wounds that have made you stronger and better.
And “COVID-19 precautions” will become part of the non-curricular education that will further shape you.
We know this cloud will have a silver lining and that life will go on— changed, and somehow better.
We love you and are here for you.