“I’m not telling you it is going to be easy. I’m telling you it is going to be worth it”
A time that should be filled with congratulations for all that was accomplished and joyful anticipation for all that remains ahead feels far more like a time of disappointment and anxiety for our graduates.
As our graduates prepare to transition into the next chapter of their lives, many are tethered by sadness for all they missed out during the final two months of school and the anxiety of taking the next step on their journey amid a global pandemic and recessionary headwinds.
To empower them during this time, a healthy dose of empathy, honesty and perhaps even tough love is required to ensure they recognize their best days didn’t elude them, but in fact remain ahead of them.
While anxiously preparing to return to school after being out for more than a year recovering from burns, I was transfixed on all that had been taken from me. Looking down at my wheelchair and down at my scars, I was filled with profound angst.
I kept telling my dad how unfair it was and that it had stolen my future. I kept asking my dad why something so terrible had happened and why it had to happen to me. This was far from my first time venting to him about how unfair everything was. Dad stayed next to me, listening patiently.
Then he stood up, raised his voice slightly and proclaimed something that altered my mindset that evening, and my entire life afterward. It’s a sentiment that might help some of our anxious graduates, too.
“John, listen, this terrible thing has happened. You can spend the rest of your life complaining about how unfair it is that you were forced to miss out on so many things. You can feel trapped by all you must deal with and all you must still endure. And no one will ever criticize you for it. You’ve earned the right.”
There was a long pause before he added, “Or, John, you can use this terrible, difficult experience to grow in character and compassion, to be reminded always of what actually matters, to leverage these experiences to propel you forward in your life, and to even show others what remains possible in their lives. The life ahead of you and can still be a gift… The choice is completely up to you.”
He gave me a loving, firm hug and walked out of the room.
I needed his honesty that evening. I’ve also needed the reminder on innumerable occasions since. Although you can’t always choose the path you walk in life, you can always choose the manner in which you walk it. [Click to tweet.]
So to the Class of 2020 and others who may benefit from some tough love: It is indeed terribly sad and difficult that this has happened to you. A semester packed with activities and celebrations with friends and family has been stolen from you. You approach the next chapter amid a global pandemic and into one the most precarious job markets in history. And if you want to spend the rest of your summer and life complaining about it no one will criticize you for it. You have the right.
Or you can use this terrible, difficult experience to grow in character and compassion, to be reminded always of what actually matters, to leverage these experiences to propel you forward in your life, and to even show others what remains possible in their lives. The life ahead of you and can still be a gift.
Graduates – and friends – the choice is completely up to you.
This is your day. Live Inspired.