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Dear Class of 2021,

Congratulations! You have passed a major milestone in your life and now get to enjoy new celebrations and traditions. Transitional events like birthdays, weddings, baby showers, quinceañeras, and other rituals are all meant to mark the beginning of a new stage of life. Now, as a member of the class of 2021, you have arrived at one of these turning points. Although celebrations may look different or be absent altogether this year, your graduation is still an achievement worth celebrating.

Whether it be from high school, college, or graduate school, your graduation represents the culmination of years of hard work, sometimes through extraordinarily difficult times. Despite the threat of a pandemic and the turmoil and uncertainty of the past year and a half, you have had the strength and determination to pursue your education.

Maybe it’s not the sendoff many of us dreamed of. There’s a melancholy amidst the memes and videos that reference finishing one’s degree on a random Wednesday at home. In place of cathartic final days and graduations are muted versions of these, often with fewer people or completely virtual if they exist at all. All this could be disappointing, especially in the face of the hardships and conflict that has defined recent history, but there are a few things we can learn from the past year and a half that can give us hope and help us envision a better future.

It took a lot to get through the past year, and the resilience you demonstrated is something you’ll need going forward. It took resilience to survive a pandemic, adapt to new ways of doing things, and learn to navigate platforms like Zoom and the new skills that go along with them. To be courageous enough to stand for justice took resilience. In the future, this quality will be required to discover new phenomena, lead trailblazing projects, inspire the next generations, and challenge the trend of girls losing interest in STEM. The past few months may have dealt you many challenges, but they have made you stronger and have prepared you for the future.

Resilience is getting back up when you’re knocked down and continuing to explore new options when nothing seems to be working. You’re entering a new stage of life, be it college, travel abroad, or a new job, and there are going to be moments when you don’t know exactly what to do. This can be frustrating, but it is important to remember that growth, not perfection, is the goal. Every failure is a chance to learn something new, and that’s a great opportunity. Transitioning to a new stage of life after an earth-shaking pandemic is going to have its ups and downs, but as long as you are continuing to improve, failing forward is still a beautiful thing.

If there’s one thing to be learned from the past year and a half, it’s the importance of our relationships with one another. The people around us serve as our mentors, our inspirations, our support systems, and during this time, we have been physically forced apart. Having to maintain distance from others was hard, but it showed us the value of our relationships. As more people get vaccinated and we begin to naturally interact with others, we can remember why relationships are so important and let that drive us to invest in each other.

Going forward, let’s prioritize treating others well and lifting others with us in our success—and maybe our communities will be stronger than they ever were before.

Life is tough, but so are you.

The past year has seen a lot of discussion about our societal problems. Now that you’re moving out into the world, you get to do something about it. Congratulations.


A member of the class of 2021 at Reinvented Magazine

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