Oliver: Class of 2020, embrace life, possibilities for future despite disappointments

Dear Class of 2020,

First and foremost, congratulations! You made it!

Granted, it might not be exactly what you were envisioning when you were freshmen. Perhaps you wanted to follow the lead of the classes ahead of you in donning caps and gowns and crossing a stage to get your diploma. All of this done with your friends by your side and your family cheering you on.

That is the traditional way of doing graduation. However, we are definitely facing untraditional times.

This COVID-19 pandemic has turned all of our lives upside down. There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty out there. No doubt you’re feeling it, too.

However, this too shall pass. We might never go back to the old ways of doing things, but we will get through his.

You, dear graduates, are forging a new path. You are pioneering a new way.

We’re all sorry that your school year didn’t go the way that we all had hoped for you. Our hearts ache just thinking about the memories that you didn’t get to make, the games you didn’t get to play, the plays and activities you didn’t get to be a part of.

Still, your future remains bright. This pandemic cannot rob you of the most important thing: your future. Perhaps it won’t take the path you originally charted, but the way ahead is still yours to make. In fact, if you let them, these hard times can make you stronger and more resilient.

Don’t settle for complaining about what you’re missing out on; figure out what you can do. Better yet, figure out ways to help others.

Measure your success not by how much you accumulate in money and stuff, but in how much good you put out into the world.

The “real world” is all about handing us challenges, sometimes one after another. You can allow them to make you angry and bitter, as if the world owed you something better, or you can rise above them and triumph. Do it with a positive attitude and a desire to be useful and helpful to others, and your life will be richer and more satisfying, no matter how hard the path may be.

Please do better than a lot of the adults around us these days. Don’t fall prey to the divisiveness and the “us vs. them” propaganda being spewed from both sides. It may feel better to scream and rant, but ultimately it really doesn’t help. Looking for common ground and working together with those with whom we disagree may not be popular right now, but it’s far better than remaining at an impasse. It’s not always about being right; it’s about getting things done for the greater good.

Learn to think, to be reasonable, to look for facts and data, to consider all sides of an issue before acting. Be discerning and careful with the sources of information you trust. Test them out before you follow. Avoid being gullible, but don’t be paranoid, either.

No matter what anyone wants to tell you otherwise, we are all in this together.

Life is an adventure, one that rarely manages to stay quiet and calm. These past few months certainly are a testament to that.

Be careful and stay safe. Be resilient and reasonable.

Class of 2020, we’re so proud of you and how far you’ve come. We know that you have an opportunity unlike any of us before you to choose your own adventure.

Choose wisely.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.