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Different: The Class of 2020 in a world of Different

I don’t remember much of my high school graduation. The blur of 13 years together in a small rural school district in a class of 50 kids was an emotional experience, but I, frankly, don’t remember much of it.

I do remember walking across that stage, listening to the hum of the crowded gym, being handed my diploma and giving my favorite school board member a hug. Thanks, Dad.

The other memories I do have are quick snapshots of random moments of the ceremony and the days around it. Fun last memories with that group of 50 that I grew up right beside and moments of sadness knowing it would be the last time we would all be together. Also, memories of being a naïve 18-year-old…

No matter what the memories are, I’m glad I have them. Do you know how many days in our lives are unmemorable? We can live our life to the fullest, but the sad truth of life is that we will not remember more days than we do remember.

We are all going through days right now that none of us will ever forget. A (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic is mind-boggling and something I never thought I’d see. The Class of 2020 didn’t think they would ever see a world where they wouldn’t get to spend their final school days together and have a “normal” graduation.

A blur of 13 years is now going to culminate for so many in a weird ceremony sitting in a car in a parking lot or spread out across a football field or purely online apart from one another. A day that is imagined by every kid to ever walk down a school hallway is sadly perverted into a makeshift celebration.

Schools and communities are doing their best to celebrate these kids. In our current world, there is not a whole lot else that we can do, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t different.

I have seen way too many people that have lived decades after their graduation claiming that graduation doesn’t matter. That this is no big deal. That it is just getting a piece of paper.

High school graduation is so much more than that. It is a milestone for every senior. The end of high school is different for everyone, but it is a milestone, nonetheless. It could be a happy or sad one, an excruciating or exhilarating one, a frantic or freeing one or any multitude of emotions. Do not allow different to mean diminished.

If you are close with a graduating high school senior, listen to them. Listen to what they want, what they need and what they feel. There are not many things in life that we are programmed to look forward to for 13 years, but graduation is one of them. Ask the seniors how they are dealing with different.

We could all learn to listen a little bit better.

I remember listening to the excitedly nervous conversations my classmates were having in the cafeteria as we waited for the ceremony to begin. I remember listening to the roar of laughter during the speeches of my peers. I remember listening to the sniffles of crying faces as the reality of the final period on the final sentence of our final moments together officially ended.

Listen, the Class of 2020 does not get to enjoy this rite of passage. We cannot diminish this state of different for a class that appears destined to make a world of difference.

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