There will be no Pomp and Circumstance to lead the graduating class of 2020 across the stage, signifying their official graduate status.
My son would have been among them. I would have whooped embarrassingly as he accepted his high school diploma. It was a rite of passage I wanted for both of us because I’m proud of this kid.
I wanted hundreds of photos of him next to his smart, beautiful girlfriend who would have been his prom date. Though this didn’t happen, and as my son would say, “it sucks,” I hope the Class of 2020 will look at this time as a unique pivot in their lives. The world came to an abrupt halt but life didn’t.
They are alive at a time when the globe has been rocked by a pandemic. Add to that the shift in a societal awareness of the protests and marches pushing justice to the forefront of humanity. If any generation is going to snap the ball and run with it, it’s the Class of 2020. Their generation has done so much already to change the way the world moves. Don’t stop now. Look at how inclusive you are, how accepting you are of one another. You speak up. You push boundaries. Keep that momentum going.
It’s been a weird end to a weird academic year that I am sure my son will never forget. That’s a good thing. I don’t want him to forget it, ever. His final year of high school has been the culmination of all the life lessons he’s been learning since kindergarten: patience, kindness, empathy, respect for self and for others. Inclusion. Doing the right thing. The best way to learn this is to see the opposite in action and decide your reaction. Again, I’m really proud of this kid.
Teacher strikes. COVID-19. Weeks in limbo that led to a rushed online experience, taking independence and accountability to a whole new level. He’s learned to think critically, to see both sides and to find the ironies therein. My best conversations are with him. His view of the world is shockingly accurate and yet, his optimism is too. He is wise in ways he doesn’t yet appreciate, but I trust he’ll use his powers for good. He has an academic mind, a sensitive soul and an innate ability to see people for exactly who they are – true gifts that, when he sees them as such, will unlock his potential.
Probably the greatest thing to watch has been the friendships my son has built, some back as far as the preschool jungle gym. This pack of boys, with their goofy laughs and twisted humour, have come through tragedies most adults couldn’t conquer with wisdom and acceptance, all while dealing with the awkwardness and uncertainty that comes with adolescence. Resiliency is their core strength. True to their characters, they will never forget those they’ve lost. You can’t teach that kind of integrity. They learned it by living it. It’s been the hardest and most rewarding thing to witness.
Graduation should have been a momentous event, but I promise there are many amazing occasions yet to come. Focus on the memories shared with your friends (especially the moments your parents don’t know about).
And for my son, rest assured anytime you cross a stage, I’ll be there to whoop, because I’m proud of you, kid.