As always, at this time of year, I’d like to speak personally to the Class of 2021. I hope you will find my message helpful and encouraging.
I want to talk to you about balance. Not the kind of balance one experiences on a swinging bridge or in a high-wire act, but the kind of balance that comes within life itself. I know a lot of you may feel you’ve been robbed of much of your high school and college experience these last two years, because of the precautions necessary for Covid-19. And to that I say, you’re right. Is it fair to lose out on so many personal and monumental experiences in your life? The short answer is “No.”
Now, I could go on further and say, “But look around you as well. Was it fair for so many small businesses to fail because of lost revenue from this terrible virus? How about the millions of people who lost their jobs and careers as a result? Was it right for so many to endure extreme stress and food anxiety for so long? And of course, worst of all, for those that lost their lives due to this deadly pandemic?” To all this, the answer is a simple, “No, it’s not fair.” But with all that ringing true, it doesn’t diminish the disappointment graduates today must feel about their circumstances. It’s human nature, and in this case, a valid response no one can argue with.
What you’ve missed out on is real, but what you’ve experienced is real also. Maybe you missed out on prom, or celebrations, sporting events, socializing with friends, the list goes on. What you also experienced, though, was history. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard it all before, yada, yada, yada. But humor me for a moment. I’m not just saying the repeated adage that through adversity comes strength, and you’ll come out of this stronger and more resilient to tackle the challenges of life. All that’s true in its own right.
Instead, I want to emphasize the importance of the fact that each of you has experienced something that hasn’t happened in over a hundred years! I’m not talking about seeing a solar eclipse here; something that happens in a matter of minutes within a single day. I’m talking about something that has gone on for longer than a year. An event so impactful that it changes not only human lives, but the course of human existence in the future. The decisions you’ve made in this time will affect the decisions you make years from now. The experiences you’ve been through will define not only who you are, but also how you see the world later. It affects your judgment, how you see people, relate to people, perhaps even pre-judge others as well. It shapes how you will live your life in ways we cannot imagine completely at this moment. For instance, do you plan better financially? Will you be less materialistic in your desires, or more so, because you feel time is not guaranteed? Will you see loved ones in a different light? Will you repair broken relationships and mend old disagreements and grudges? Career decisions take on a new meaning. Some will see their careers as more impactful, while others may be more inclined to see work/life balance and enjoying what you do as more important than ever.
Balance, there’s the word I was looking for. Allow me to impart some advice that we older folks have learned through experience. My wise old grandmother (and I mean this most endearingly) once told me not to worry so much about the troubles of today, because life just has a way of balancing out. Both good times and bad pass eventually and we typically live for the most part somewhere in between these two states of being.
How does this help you today? Well, for all that you have lost, look for those other seemingly transparent gifts that you have gained from this experience. Has it made you more creative; has it inspired your entrepreneurial spirit; do you see the world in a new way; are you more imaginative; and do you appreciate the little moments in life you may have taken for granted before? I cannot begin to list all the ways here, but think about it and ask yourself if you can find something of use out of all this. And then use it to your advantage.
Don’t let this experience break you; instead, let it make you. As my grandmother Daisy said, “In the end, your life will balance out.” Rewards and good times will come again. And just think about all the stories you can tell for decades about this time.
Congratulations to all the graduates of the Class of 2021, and may your glass always be half-full!
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