You’ve finally made it.
But before you head out to celebrate with virtual trips to Disneyland or — for the rebels among the young — Zoom keg parties, there is one more bit of schooling we have to do.
It’s called the commencement speech.
Many of you may have already heard the top of your class via online virtual ceremonies either reflect on your school years, friendships, trials and tribulations and the post pandemic world that awaits you.
You’ve also likely been told 1,001 times congratulations by people who really do mean it.
Completing a 13-year endeavor isn’t an easy task regardless of what some older folks might tell you. Even though people will tell you just like fools before them did that you are now going into the real world, you’ve been living in it for the past 18 years or so. If they doubt that just remind them to consider the past three months. You had your entire life along with the rest of the world turned upside down by a virus that no one even knew existed when you started your senior year.
It obviously could be worst. You could have lost a classmate to COVID-19 or, as in the case of some previous generations, your first summer could have been fighting to save the world in Europe, North Africa, or the Pacific or perhaps a senior trip to Vietnam.
Your graduation thankfully was not punctured with the tired and worn out strands of “Pomp & Circumstances” but likely whatever tune pumps you up that was playing on your buds as you drove up to collect your diploma.
It is neither the end of your world nor the beginning. It is a milestone, however. As such it is a time to reflect.
Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. At the same time don’t be saddled down by mistakes, failures, or what you perceive as painful or excruciating experiences. We all have them. The tired old line is that one learns from your mistakes is true. But at the same time you should remember whatever seems like a daunting boulder that is weighing you down eventually becomes a mere pebble — if that — as life rolls on. Just like the passage of time wears the mountain down to sand, as the months and years go by the pain also erodes.
At times life may not seem fair such as having all the fun trappings of your senior year thrown for a curve. But keep this in mind: When you were born your life expectancy was 75.8 years. If you had been born 200 years earlier you would be going through your mid-life crisis today instead of graduating.
If, by chance, you wonder why people life longer than their life expectancy you might want to keep in mind that you should never stop learning and understanding what things mean or what others believe. There is a big difference between “life expectancy” and “lifespan.”
My apologies for the blatant plug for lifelong learning and keeping your minds as well as hearts open.
Now back to the tsunami that seems to have obliterated your world.
As hideous as COVID-19 may seem it is nothing compared to what mankind has whipped or tamed through medicine, sanitation, clean water systems, wastewater treatment facilities, food production and much more over the past two 2¼ centuries. If you still think the “world” you are about to be turned loose in from the nest to test whether you can fly is doomed, ponder this: Who do you think changed the world for the better? It was wave after wave of new generations of which you are the latest.
Let’s now talk about the other “epidemic” that typically strikes this time of year — self-proclaimed prophets.
Graduation season has a tendency to encourage people to give you a lot of unsolicited advice, myself included. The fact they are offering advice isn’t the issue. All of us regardless of our age or station in life should listen to what others think whether they are older, younger, friend, or foe. The problem is those that insist on hammering you with advice that they sell as absolute.
Look around you the last few weeks and you can see the folly of wholesale acceptance of what some pedal these days as inconvenient truths rather than points you need to ponder, reflect upon, and react accordingly in terms of what makes sense for you weighed against what works for others.
As an example, in recent years there has been a steady and growing drumbeat to slay the suburbia model that eschews mass transit and relies heavily on individual vehicles.
You will notice that your entrance into the so-called “real” world was done via the “wheel” world. Cars in the pandemic age made it possible for you to retrieve your diplomas and enjoy a ceremonial end of sorts to your public schooling. A shot at traditional ceremonies of some sort Manteca Unified is aiming for on July 31 won’t be quite the same feel as an event capping the last day in school. That feel was somewhat salvaged by the automobile, the bane of more than a few people. The same form of transit is allowing people to move around safely under social distancing rules without endangering others.
Meanwhile there’s a growing consensus that the carnage in New York that has accounted for 30 percent of the national 100,000 plus COVID-19 deaths is partially to blame on mass transit.
That throws the absolute assertion about cars being bad out the window.
But there is another much bigger lesson that would do you well to embrace as a member of the Class of 2020 as you go forward with your life.
This is not a one size fits all world, nation, state, or even community.
New York is not Alturus in Modoc County. Manteca is not Los Angeles.
Yet we have people who are in a position to lead and influence that insist their reality is your reality. It rarely is.
If you can see the folly of the absolute preaching about COVID-19 protocols going on across the spectrum and grasp the fact the conditions, challenges, and reality people are dealing with are far from being the same then there is hope that we as a society can back off from the edge of the abyss we’ve perched ourselves on.
We no longer talk, we shout. We no longer reason, we lecture. Tolerance is a hollow politically correct term. In order to associate with others today they must pass an algorithm provided courtesy of Big Brother corporations such as Facebook that match us perfectly in thought and likes. That way we don’t have to be exposed to other ideas and views.
It’s ironic that we quibble incessantly about opening our borders and then in the next breath we make it clear we want nothing to do with anyone who thinks differently than us.
This may sound like the world is pretty messed up. Against the perspective of time, it really is getting better in more ways than not. The world, just like your life, is a work in progress.
Go ahead and have fun. You’ve earned it. Don’t however forget social distancing protocols. You may be young, strong, and symptom free but you are also a part of something bigger.