Dear the Class of 2021,
We did it. Despite the numerous odds against us, we are graduating. We persevered through personal failures and seemingly apocalyptic times to bring the world yet another graduating class of intelligent and eager students. With this in mind, I want to congratulate every person that will be walking across that stage and offer some humble words of advice.
First, remember the Oscar Wilde quote that was re-blogged millions of times on Tumblr, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,” and believe it. So many of us are plagued with doubts about what we should do, or who we might be, but believing in our circumstances and continuing to work towards our goals is the right way forward. If you hate what you’re doing, quit. Think back to when you started college as a nursing major and then almost failed biology, so you switched to international affairs. Because… relatable. Following your strengths and passions is the right way forward, don’t try to be something that you’re not.
Second, no one knows what they’re doing. A friend in an executive position at a large company once told me that he carried a clipboard or folder and always walked with a purpose. Because of this, all of his co-workers thought he was so productive, but really he was just going to the bathroom. Sure, experience helps people determine what they’re good at and what they should focus on, but it doesn’t mean that they are any smarter or prepared than you are right now. Channel your inner Elle Woods—dress to impress, come prepared and believe in yourself—it will pay off.
Third, you earned this! A diploma is a diploma. Fashion merchandising, nursing, business, engineering and English majors all end with the same piece of paper. You are now a self-proclaimed academic in your field. Remember that weird trick your professor did, or the song that helped you remember all of the letters in the Spanish alphabet and never stop studying life the way you studied your coursework. Your education doesn’t end with your degree; continue to secure your place and gain all of the knowledge you can, because you earned it.
Lastly, never forget where you came from. We are all diverse, intersectional human beings. Kindness matters. Helping people matters. Working together is vital. Your roots are what hold you in place and are the source of your strength. Alice Walker said it best: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
You are powerful, worthy and ready to do this. And, as Troy Bolton said, “We’re all in this together.”
Congratulations on this huge accomplishment and enjoy the fruits of your labor. We will all go our separate ways but are still connected by the tomahawk chop (and possibly the germs at Pots). Go ‘noles and good luck!