Graduation: My Dedication to the Class of 2020

 In Compassion, High School, Promoting Tolerance

Heavy clouds loom over the rays of sunshine meant to propel us toward our bright futures. A glorious, vivid moment in our lives now rests in the hands of a cursed, invisible enemy. The aura surrounding graduation emanates anything but brilliance: this year’s commencement projects gloom and austerity. Mere disappointment saturates us as we take steps closer toward the end, where an unfortunate reward awaits. No senior prom, no senior week, no hugging our best friends, no personal farewell to our favorite teachers. My senior t-shirt even reads, ‘2020: the ones who got quarantined.’ No scribbly signatures in our yearbooks concluding with “HAGS,” because we know COVID-19 has already plagued our summer plans. Even our freshman year of college is up in the air, potentially compromised by this contagion. Entrapped in our homes and muzzled by surgical face masks, it just seems like everything has gone down the drain. There’s too much to sulk about. 

Most of you, especially my peers and classmates, feel exactly like this. Senior year of high school is, indeed, supposed to be one of the most fun and memorable years of a teenager’s life. We’ve worked tirelessly like robots, mechanized by a system that esteems numbers over humanity, exam scores over mental health, and what may be perceived as success over personal character. The culmination of our sacrifices, the proliferation of our achievements, and the realization of our journeys ahead ignited sole sparks of joy. Euphoric sentiments of reward are suffocated, with six feet distancing us from these feelings of warmth. When all we wanted was to finally embrace each other and surrender our battle over deemed success, another war was imminent. Coming to our senses after years of intense competition marked the beginnings of viral division.

Losses inflicted by destructive conflict never impact everyone equally. But in times of agony, I have learned, it is important to frame yourself in the position of others. Understanding broadens your horizons, providing empathy instills comfort and hope. In this time of distress for many of you, although I am not heartbroken, I do feel your pain. I have experienced despair, self defeat, and am still torn by scars of regret. It’s been easier for me than for others only because my community is dispersed. I’ve moved schools several times, having attended six schools from the beginning of my academic experience. All with diverse cultures and groups of people, I was compelled to expand my social circle beyond school. Sports, academic activities, and family dinners enabled me to befriend people of all ages and demographics. Although I consider myself independent, self motivated, and routine, time with friends is precious to me. In fact, isolation is never the answer: interconnectivity is key to human nature and happiness. But also necessary to us individuals is adaptability: making the best out of any given situation gives us a platform to thrive on personal growth. And when we think about what this means, graduation is the only word that comes to mind: overcoming and learning from adversity IS graduation. 

While I am not heartbroken by the prospect of empty chairs facing me as I obtain my high school diploma, a new pain emerges. The probability of deferring from my freshman year of college seems high; even higher is the pressure that torments my thoughts over this decision. Like many of you, I want out and I want to start anew. The moment GW became a reality for me, all I’ve wanted is a one way ticket to DC in August. High school, notably my junior year, was unbearable: ill memories of mounting depression flood my mind when I reminisce over the past four years. Despite my trauma, I triumphed from the quicksand of anxiety that drowned me in misery. I promised myself I’d never repeat my highschool mistakes, that in retrospect, I am thankful to have made. Sealing my maturity with a fresh mindset, I am more ready now, than ever before, to embark on a new journey. But once again, our world is unpredictable. My decision stands currently as unresolved. 

Storms of chaos often leave us vanquished by doubt. But in fact, these challenges do everything but confine us: as we put things in perspective, they bring unprecedented windows of opportunity. Speaking from experience, the two worst years of my life actually empowered and instilled resilience in me. I took hold of my life to become the best version of myself that I could be. My bold, type A personality is a direct product of navigating through waves of adversity. 

Quarantine has definitely challenged me emotionally on various fronts. I’ve experienced disappointment in some of my closest relationships. Your bond to your class, to each other, and, yes, to this graduation is just as legitimate as one between you and a loved one. Being locked in our cars at commencement is most certainly an obstacle. However, quarantine has fostered moments of self-reflection that have enabled me to align my priorities with my emotions. What and who are ACTUALLY important to me? What are my TRUE priorities? What is REALLY worth fighting for?  Day after day, I notice myself evolving, maturing, and learning to answer these lingering questions in the back of my mind.  

To see clearly and to be seen clearly is a principle I live by. My parents, since I was a little girl, urged me to build relationships, travel around the world, and read a wide variety of books and newspapers. With each friendship, a new connection was sparked; with each exotic journey, my blind spots crystalized; and story after story I read, gems of knowledge filled the treasure box in my mind. And hence, my passion for history: when we can see clearly into the past, we can understand our present, and predict our future. Having  studied historical events and the capacity of humankind, I understand the consequences of my actions. History has proven that leaders willing to hold themselves accountable tied ropes of trust between themselves and their people. For this reason, I’m a proponent of being seen clearly while it comes at a cost: transparency yields vulnerability, and it leaves us fully exposed. But as we know, narratives only begin at the exposition. 

2020 is in fact, the class of vision: no, not just vision, but perfect, 2020 vision.  

We are living witness to an era ravaged by social and public health crises. COVID-19 forced an international reset on social, political, medical, and economic fronts; the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd exposed the omnipresent racism lurking in the shadows of American society. Wasn’t 2020 supposed to be the perfect year? It sure sounded like it. But perfection never lasts, nor does it materialize. All things that are seemingly flawless, are oftentimes dangerous. Life is filled with paradoxes, provoking us and playing with human psychology. This paradox we are living–a perfect year in a disordered world– was meant to be: in my mind, all things happen for a reason. Destiny.

Our class will not go down as not the unfortunate and doomed. It is the one whose eyes have been fully opened to the stark realities of our world. Isn’t this what it means to graduate? A right of passage, elevation, moving forward. But on the other hand, to have graduated means to have successfully completed. Putting the two together, our diploma serves as a license to spearhead motions of change in a backward society. The world is crying for change, pleading for ethical leaders and social justice. And this generation has been summoned to seize this moment. Our class has graduated with more weight than any other. Our diploma carries an obligation we are privileged enough to be responsible for.

Since childhood, I’ve dreamed to repair the often indifferent and unjust world we live in. My profound study of history has taught me that positive change is, indeed, the hardest to foster. My adventures through adolescence have made me realize why: we keep trying to fit the system. Most of us won’t question it, blinding us from seeing clearly and being seen clearly. So to implement REAL change, we must follow the advice of the revolutionary entrepreneur Howard Schultz. He tells us, “don’t do things the way they’ve always been done. Don’t try to fit the system. If you do what’s expected of you, you’ll never accomplish more than others expect.” 

2020, we don’t seem to fit the system: our graduation certainly isn’t normal. But this year, despite all odds, we do so untraditionally with renowned strength balanced by grace: this fuels our passion, our purpose. Let’s use our impeccable vision to veer off the path of the expected to accomplish more than the world expects of us. 

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