Congratulations to all 2020 graduates! You probably didn’t walk across a stage, nor have large celebratory gatherings, yet this is a year you will remember! Many thanks to your school, family, friends and community who supported you all along and provided you with the most unique and outstanding graduation recognition ever!
Your educational path was seriously disrupted as the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic grew like a swift wildfire disrupting anything that seemed normal and predictable. The results of being swayed off course for just a few months affected the core of your being one way or another; however, you still graduated.
Without reliving all the negatives or disappointments, let’s fast forward to, “What’s next?”
Now on the other side of graduation it’s time to savor this moment. Whether your vision of your future plans is definite or uncertain, you may find yourself somewhat lost for your next steps. As you’ve heard many times, the “new normal” is in the works, which includes you. Today can only be seen for what it is. Clearly, you will be the one who ultimately paves the way to your next steps.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
You can account for a grueling semester and your diploma, a symbol of accomplishment, yet you know there is more for you. Maybe your end-of-the-school-year dreams were crushed or filled with stress and disappointment, but you WILL move forward as you fulfill or redesign your future.
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” —Frida Kahlo
I remember being young and faced with uncertainty and challenges during the years of each of my graduations: high school, college and master’s degree.
I look back, and I have said over and over, “Youth and my 20s were great, but I would never want to relive or do them over for a better outcome!”
My concerns, worries and struggles included finances, but most of all juggling my precious time with my work, studies and young family. Your experience this last semester was very similar. Your life and mind contributed to the feelings of being confused and having conflicting emotions.
As I reflect on those tough years, I continually realize those experiences were a big part of building my character and strength to endure even greater challenges.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” —Maya Angelou
Those hard times were made easier and more doable when I was able to interact and learn from mentors like my teachers, professors, community leaders, employers, and elders. I could, also, learn a lot about how to carry myself and would know who I could turn to for solid advice and guidance. Their accomplishments and how they went about life always intrigued me as I continued to be wishful and dream towards what I wanted to do “when I would grew up.”
Nowadays, when life gets harrowing or hectic I remind myself, “Slowdown, focus on the moment. This is not a big deal. I can do anything.”
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” —Rosa Parks
As early as April, mental health practitioners and wellness coaches were discussing and designing well-being advice for “pandemicees.” Overall, remember this pandemic will not be forever; however, it is providing you opportunities to rethink and redesign yourself to be stronger at all levels; mental, spiritual, physical, and as a community and family member.
“Doubt is a killer. You just have to know who you are and what you stand for.” —Jennifer Lopez
The pain of loss, whether it be unfulfilled dreams, unmet goals or loss of a loved one; the pain is letting us know that we need to be aware so we can heal. The uncertainty of the pandemic shifts. and changes can be similar to the levels of grief one must go through in any area of life. It is said that time heals all wounds. Dealing with your heartache in a healthy way rather than putting it off for tomorrow is the key to repair. Be open to loving, trusting and believing again.
Be kind to yourself
Let go of negative thoughts and moodiness as you may fall into the trap of not feeling good enough or not feeling resilient. Make decisions to continue to dream, and pursue your loves and hobbies that can make you excited about life.
Recognize being alone is not the same as being lonely, as a result of serious isolation. A few things that you are fortunate to have during these times are various ways to socialize, including technology, cell phones, Facetime, and many types of social media (including the new Zoom parties). Be gentle to yourself as you accept life has shifted and you have choices in how you can still engage in a full life.
Practice choosing and doing what is truly important to you. Take notice of what you value and how you spend your time and attention. As you are preparing for your next phase, you may want to make sure you are supporting moving in a direction that will benefit you for the long term, not just for the day.
“I raise up my voice — not so I can shout but so that though without a voice can be heard. … We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” —Malala Yousafzai
Generosity, giving and community
Give of yourself to your community. Know that you can and do make a difference to others. As you are wanting to feel more alive and connected decide to reach out to help others. There are community members that could use your mentoring (younger people), attention (elderly) and compassion (anyone who could use a pick-me-up). You can be creative and generous with your time and talents in how you serve these audiences: telephone calls, letters, social media, no contact drop-offs, and social distancing hellos and visits.
“We do not need magic to change the world; we can carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.” —JK Rowling
No more normal or status quo
You will not be able to return to what was, because that was then and this was now. But you will be able to be the creator of your future once you realize things have changed.
What’s exciting about designing your future is that you can create and invent things and ideas that now fit the world or your community as you now see it.
There may be more opportunities for one type of business or another. Media, sports, music, the legal field, retail, restaurants, travel and education are a few areas where there seems to be significant shifts in purpose and services.
“I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life.” —Louise Hay
Graduates and families, the future holds no promises; however, using this time to pause, self-reflect and readjust will provide a sparked interest in your life and direction. As you move forward you’ll be able to count on finding peace, security, and rediscovered purpose and happiness.
Congratulations on receiving your “pandemic gift” of reworking your daily life and aspirations, even at this young age. Sometimes it takes people a lifetime to gain what you have in a few months. With your newfound strength, tenacity, and desires, be safe, well and kind to yourself. Never stop knowing your dreams do turn to reality!
Cheryl Von Flue, M.A. Ed., teacher and school administrator, was born and raised in Imperial Valley. As a Master Life Coach for more than 25 years, she works with student and adult clients using neuroscience-based techniques for transformation in the area of academics, behavior, health and relationships. She can be reached at The Learning Place-El Centro at (760) 353-9932. This article is not intended to substitute for medical advice. Please speak with your medical professional to assist you in areas where you are uncertain. Examples given were found via a brief internet search where you may find more comprehensive information.