Dear Class of 2020, I’m Sorry
Dear Class of 2020,
I hope you take a moment to read this. I've always been long-winded and now they've given me a microphone and a website. I just want you to know that I see you in this crazy time, and I hope you care of yourself. There's a lot happening in the world right now and unfortunately, the ripple effects have taken a lot from you.
And I want you to know it's ok to be upset about it.
There's a weird mentality often floating around the internet where you express disappointment, anger, or frustration about something and then someone swoops in (usually with good intentions) and reminds you that there is far worse going on and you don't have it so bad.
Here's the thing. You know that. You know pandemic is making for a scary word. You know people are getting sick. You know that's terrible.
But you should also know that it sucks that you have been denied some really major milestones and rights of passage that you (and your parents) have been looking forward to since you entered Kindergarten.
It's possible and normal to be upset about a pandemic as well as missing out on prom.
It's possible and normal to have concern about loved ones working in the medical field and be concerned about your schoolwork that you now have to do from home.
Some of you are now taking on the role of 3rd parent since Mom and Dad have to work. You're a parent, a teacher, and a student yourself all at once while managing your younger siblings.
That's not fair.
And I know life isn't fair and I know by now you do too. And I'm sorry you're learning this lesson now in such an unprecedented and difficult way. I know you know that others can and do have it worse. It's okay to be upset anyway.
Look, I remember being a teenager. Everything felt like the end of the world even though I rarely admitted it to myself or others. (Spoiler alert: Your mind is going to be blown when you look back on your teen years.) And the world right now is scary.
Did you ever learn about the 5 stages of grief in Psychology? Here's a little recap from grief.com:
Denial: The first stage that gets you through the initial shock. When the COVID-19 came to the US you likely told yourself it wasn't a big deal or didn't give it much thought. I know, personally, I didn't really "get it" until it showed up in Maine and even then, it took a few days.
Anger: This is an important stage that helps you heal and it's so important that you let yourself feel it and that you manage it in a healthy way. One tip is to write down exactly how you feel. Journaling can be so helpful and how fascinating will it be to look back years from now when COVID-19 is a chapter in a history book?
Bargaining: This is where you may drop to your knees and beg a higher power to do something, anything so that things can return back to normal. Or you have those "What if" or "if only" thoughts running through your head over and over.
Depression: The reality hits. It's heavy and it sucks. You likely feel powerless. Again I point to journaling but there are countless coping skills you can utilize.
Acceptance: This is where you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Things may not be what you wanted or hoped for but you can finally not just hear that things will be better, but you'll believe it.
I review the stages of grief, not with the assumption that someone in your life will pass away. We can grieve over more than a life. What you're going through is a grieving process. For the majority of your existence, you've been looking forward to this period in your life. Senior privileges, senior prom, graduation, and everything that goes with it. Maybe you're an athlete and your senior season is now gone. Maybe you're in drama and your spring production never got to go on in front of an audience. Those are very real losses and it's important that you let yourself process those losses.
You've busted your tail to get here. You struggled and succeeded. You took the SATs. Maybe a couple of times. (And that's okay!) You inched closer and closer to the fun stuff, only to have it gone in the matter of a week.
And who knows? School could be back in session before summer. But there's a good chance it won't be. And I'm sure this very real possibility is at the forefront of your mind.
So here's to you, the girl who already picked out her dream prom dress and may never get to wear it. To the boy who was ready to dominate the baseball season and take the team to the state championships. To the ones who are preparing for the workforce, college, or military and were looking forward to savoring the last few months of your high school career.
You are strong. You are capable. Allow yourself to grieve and then get back to being the kick-ass senior that you are. Even if you're not in school. Even if you can't hang out with your friends. Even if you are teaching your 10-year-old brother long division. No one and no virus can take away from what you've accomplished over the years.
This will shape you for years to come but you'll come out the other side with an outlook on the world, life, and milestones, that no one else will have. Your experience is real and has value.
So grieve. Punch a pillow. Cry. Journal. Your feelings are important and valid. Find coping skills that work for you.
Take care of yourselves and congratulations on making it this far. You have so much ahead of you.