Depending on your student’s circumstances, you have either made it to the end of a semester or you are almost there. Congratulations! Who knew that two months ago we would be living so differently and making drastic changes to our plans for school, summer, vacation, and next steps?
While my high school senior and college junior have adapted with grace and resilience (if not a couple of meltdowns…by me if I am being honest), we are still struggling with how to celebrate the end and plan for the beginning of stages. This isn’t easy. I get it. But I still feel we should mourn what could have been.
My high school senior has lost the last months of a milestone year, including graduation. He didn’t have a prom, a senior picnic, or any ceremony that praised and lauded his classmates’ accomplishments in sports, service, and academics. He is now planning his first semester in college and revising his plans for summer while I am wondering if he will even get to move onto campus and start things “normally.”
My college junior was forced to cut her study abroad semester in half, and her summer internship in Central America gone. Poof. The year that started so promising and with such adventure is now a stay-at-home-and-learn-crafts year. I don’t think that was on anyone’s New Year’s resolutions.
Whether she will finish her senior year playing on the soccer team is still being considered. She has already scheduled her senior year courses, but with numerous labs and requirements for graduation, she is not sure how she will have to adapt.
I would be lying if I said that I was okay with this. These are important endings and beginnings that should be filled with excitement, if not a little trepidation, and optimism about the future. And now they seem to be tasks that puncture our days of working from home and waiting for things to move forward. And, yes, I am sad about that. And I am sure you are, too.
While I think it is reasonable to give ourselves space and time to be disappointed, I do think that looking at this from a broader perspective and within the undulations that comprise life’s journey can help. In fact, I have found reasons to be hopeful and optimistic, not only from how my own kids are handling this, but also from how my students weathered a strange and crazy semester.
Here are a few takeaways from the first third of 2020 that have given me strength:
- Young people are resilient. In some cases, they are much more resilient than we are. I have to remind myself that my youngest kid was born 2 months after 9/11. His world looks very different than mine, and his expectations may be more realistic.
- Young people can adapt. As many of my faculty colleagues struggled to move their teaching world into cyberspace, our students adapted quickly when it came to learning in a different environment. While they may have been challenged with how to access their courses when their technology was not as readily available, they reached out, asked for help, and found solutions.
- Young people can be forgiving. I have seen more grace from young people toward all the shortcomings and disappointments. No graduation party? “No problem.” No cool internship? “I can find something else.” They have been models of patience and kindness. We could learn a thing or two.
- Young people are realistically hopeful. Despite the uncertainty of right now and the immediate future, they are optimistic and forward thinking. They also know their limitations and their capacity for grit. I have been amazed by how thoughtfully they weigh their options and how they are making alternative plans. I know many full-sized adults who still struggle with this kind of thinking.
Much has already been written about how this pandemic can and should be seen as an opportunity to reset and rethink how we want to live our lives, treat each other, and build community. For some who are suffering each day, this kind of thing sounds like a luxury. I don’t meant to minimize the reality of others’ day-to-day experiences. However, I do believe that those young people who have had their monumental endings and beginnings changed significantly will use this as a foundation to make things better not just for themselves but others as well.