In my “other life,” I am a student advisor to adult students.
Please allow me to brag for just a moment.
I have been working with this population of students for about eight years now. These are not your “traditional” 18- or 19-year-olds right out of high school, excited to leave home, bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed ready to conquer the world. For some of my students, the world has already conquered them.
The average age of my students is about 36 years old. They have full time jobs, many have families, some are even taking care of elderly parents. Some are retired veterans who have served their countries with honor and gained a resume full of experience without that “all important” degree. Some started in the work-force right out of high school and have been running at full-tilt ever since – but they have reached a point in their jobs where they cannot advance until they have their education in place. Others are stay-at-home-parents who have kiddos in school now and are looking to complete or further their education while their kiddos do the same.
These are my students; this is my class of 2020.
My kiddos are little, and I mean in no way to diminish the situation of those high school students and their parents who are grieving missed experiences due to our present circumstances. It is the pits; mainly because I am not allowed to use stronger language.
But please, don’t forget my class of 2020 right now either.
They have just completed their education while in the midst of life. Some of them have been staying up later, getting up earlier, taking their lunch at work or using their days off to complete schoolwork. They have forfeited time with family or friends. Many of them are the first in their families to graduate college. For the first time in their lives, some of my students have achieved honors. Some did homework alongside their kids in order to teach work ethic and instill a sense of value in education.
Some spouses are grieving this year’s commencement ceremony because they pulled double duty for their family unit in support of the whole and that closure looks very different this year.
I see you, my class of 2020.
I see you working from home on May 8 this year. Or maybe you are headed into your essential position wearing a mask. Maybe you are homeschooling your kids instead of donning that cap and gown in order to take a day, one day, to stop and celebrate what actually happened over the last year, two years, four years – for some of you, 20 years.
I see you.
As your advisor, I am celebrating you. I am cheering for you. I am grieving for you. But if anything, these last eight years have taught me something about you.
You are resilient. You are reticent, but you are also relentless.
Take that, celebrate that and use that in your days to come. Draw on that when you are tired, when you feel empty, when you feel inadequate. Life happens in the midst of our plans, and you conquered that challenge. You took it head on, made choices, prioritized and overcame every obstacle.
You made room for this dream to come true.
Now, take a moment and celebrate it.
I am celebrating you.