Thursday, May 7, 2020

Dear Class of 2020


This week was supposed to be a long string of celebrations. My classmates and I would have finished our final exams and spent our evenings going to bars, hanging out together, and smiling about the ways we all found joy amidst struggling through law school for the last 3 years. My fiancé and I would be going out to new restaurants and other jaunts while we enjoyed a few days off without the stress of school and before digging into preparing for the bar exam. My family and his would be coming to Atlanta this weekend to watch us don doctoral robes and receive our hard-earned law degrees.

I had watched the classes before me celebrate this incredible milestone and waited patiently for my own moment. I poured my heart and soul into pro bono work during my time in law school and earned a medal to wear at commencement. Before I left to visit my parents, I had bought the perfect graduation dress in my school colors and had my eyes on a pair of shoes that would match both my dress and my graduation regalia. Just last week I received an email saying I was chosen for a commencement award. I had this glittering image of what the final culmination of the last three years would be, but now it's gone.

Since COVID-19 began being taken seriously, I dealt with the loss of my last year in school with varying levels of success. However, knowing what this week was supposed to be has made accepting my fate more difficult than it has been the last few months. I know I'm not alone in mourning the loss that the class of 2020 bears, so I wanted to take this time to address my fellow graduates going through the same things I am:

Dear Class of 2020,

I wish we weren't in this situation. I wish we were out enjoying the spring weather with our friends and laughing about the years that led us here. We've all put in hours of studying, stressed about any number of things, faced tragedy, worked hard, found success, and grown as people. I wish we were all focusing on how to wear our hair under a graduation cap, trying to remember "accept with the left, shake with the right", and looking forward to the next steps of our lives. We made it so far, and it doesn't seem fair to be at the mercy of a pandemic.

To the high school graduates: You have so much life to look forward to. If you're heading to college, you are going to meet so many new and different people. When I graduated high school, I couldn't wait to get out of the hometown I spent my whole life in, and I found such a wonderful place to call home for the four years I spent in undergrad. While your first semester, or even year, may not be the traditional experience, this will pass, and you'll get an authentic college experience. If you're taking a gap year, use that time to learn or explore or whatever else brings you joy. There are so many experiences to be had, and they're waiting for you. If you're entering the workforce, enjoy having more independence. If you're joining the military, thank you for being selfless and supporting your country.

To the college graduates: My heart weeps for you. Getting those "last hurrah" moments taken away is so unfair to you. I encourage you to look back on the happy memories that you did get to make. Also the memories that maybe aren't so great, but that you grew into a stronger person from. When I was in college, I grew so much as a person and made some wonderful memories along the way. While the experiences you looked forward may not be a reality any more, hold on to the experiences you did get to make. If you're heading to graduate school, get excited for becoming the educated professional you allowed yourself the opportunity to become. You will develop so much and get to experience the career you dreamed of. If you're getting a "big kid job," be proud of the accomplishment you have achieved that led to you to being able to get that position. You worked hard, and hopefully are entering a field that makes you happy. If you're unsure about next steps, embrace the uncertainty! You have so much time to figure out where you want to go next, and there's no set timeline to get there. Shadow people in careers you're interested in, intern at places, volunteer, travel, do whatever you think will lead you where you need to be.

To the graduate school graduates: I feel your pain. After making it through endless years of school, having the big culminating ceremony marking the end of your education was supposed to be a big deal. Maybe you're planning to go back to school later on, in the fall, or at some undecided future time. Maybe you're finally getting to have your dream career. Maybe you're uncertain about whether you'll get to sit for the bar exam because it's being handled so poorly (looking at you NCBE!). Wherever your next steps take you, know that you have accomplished such an incredible feat, and you're going to do great things in the world!

This situation has been hard on everyone, but I want to give the Class of 2020 a special moment to celebrate ourselves and our hard work. It's okay to be upset about the loss of a major milestone celebration. We have all done an incredible thing, and we have earned the right to honor that. Let yourself grieve. Once this is all over, we will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever. Congratulations Class of 2020!

Make today the best page yet!
Paige 

3 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Paige, on your graduation!!! What a thoughtful post. As a 2009 law school graduate, I know how hard law school is and what an accomplishment it is to finish. I'm sorry you are not able to celebrate as you normally would, but I hope you find some ways to celebrate still, and I'm sending you and the Class of 2020 a big congratulations!

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    1. ~ Marissa @ The Unbillable Life

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    2. Thank you so much! My parents got a few things together so we could still celebrate, and then my school said they're planning an in person ceremony whenever it's safe to do so.

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