This is the time of year when high school seniors normally put on robes and funny hats, listen (or not listen but act like they are) to speeches telling them how they are going to change the world, then walk across a stage and leave clutching their high school diplomas.
This year, though, the arenas and gyms are quiet. Some of the graduation ceremonies are being held on-line. Some allow for small groups to pick up their diplomas. It’s not the same.
This is the part where you think I’m going to say I feel really bad for seniors not being able to go to graduation ceremonies. Well, actually I don’t. I tried to talk my parents into letting me skip my high school graduation and let me go mow the grass or something. It was a short conversation.
However, I know that other people (thankfully) are different than me. To some, that graduation ceremony is a big deal — well, at least it is to parents. But I do really feel bad for high school seniors this year for some other reasons.
I realize that missing out on part of your senior year doesn’t rank on the same level of the cosmic tragedy Richter Scale as having a loved one die or even having your business go under because of the coronavirus. I suspect some old geezers like me probably are saying something like, “It’s no big deal. Get over it. Kids today need to get tougher. Why, when I was their age …”
Well, it is a big deal. I can still remember when I was a senior at Troy High School — well, I can still remember bits and pieces anyway – and the most important things in my life at the time were the things I was involved in. I was vaguely aware of things like the Watergate scandal and the energy crisis but that wasn’t what was important to me. The big events were the basketball tournament and the prom and spending time with my friends. For some of my friends, the big events were the musical or the state track meet or, if not graduation, at least the party afterwards.
This year’s seniors have missed out on those things, and they’re not going to be able to get them back. They have every right to feel like they are missing out on a big part of their lives, because they are. But there are some unexpected benefits they can derive from their experience.
First of all, they are not just getting a high school diploma, they are getting a master’s degree in Life. What they are going through hasn’t happened in this country for more than 100 years. They are alone as survivors of such an epic event in their senior year.
This alone will be worth a lot of mileage in years to come. When I talk to my grandchildren, the best I can do to convince them that life was hard when I was young is to tell them I grew up before there were home computers. Then I have to make up a bunch of other stuff.
This year’s graduates won’t have to make up anything. They have had to navigate through an unexpected cataclysmic event. They can just tell the truth. This will be worth a lot of mileage down the road.
And the truth is, all those big events in high school make nice memories but it won’t take long until no one else cares if you went to prom or how you did in the tournament. Life moves on quickly and supplies lots of surprises, something this year’s class now knows better than most.
I think this year’s graduates will be a little wiser about what is ahead. Yes, it’s great to be inspired to go out to change the world. But it also helps to know that the world will do things beyond your control and sometimes the only thing to do is adapt and adjust your plans.
Finally, they don’t have to sit through a graduation ceremony. Personally, I think that is a big plus.
To the Class of 2020: I wish it hadn’t happened this way, but it did. If any class ever deserved extra credit for what it went through, that class would be you. You’ve made it through this so you should be confident you can handle whatever is waiting for you down the road.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com.