Celebrating the Class of 2020
There are a lot of ways to look at our current global situation, but every way I look at it, I can’t help but think that the class of 2020 got the short end of the stick. Maybe I’m biased because I too was supposed to graduate this Spring, but COVID-19 really did take a lot away from this year’s graduates. No prom. No graduation. No grad parties. No last semester of high school (or college, or grad school, or fill-in-the-blank). No proper goodbye to a chapter in their life. No proper celebration of an important milestone.
For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself experiencing a mix of thoughts and emotions. One day I’m sad that I don’t get a graduation celebration, and the next day I’m relieved that work-from-home has taken the stress off of my last few weeks of school. One day I’m angry that I didn’t cherish my undergrad graduation more, and the next day I’m content that this situation is out of my control. I was really struggling to put words to exactly how I felt until I participated in one of our LI staff teambuilding calls (check-out some of the fun we have here!) The facilitators introduced me to the Kubler Ross Change Curve. This model describes seven stages that people go through when they experience a change:
- Shock: For the first few weeks of distance learning, I couldn’t comprehend that this could become the new normal and I couldn’t think beyond the day or week in front of me.
- Denial: Even once it was clear that life wouldn’t be going back to normal before the end of the semester, I refused to believe that graduation would be canceled (or postponed) until I heard the official announcement.
- Frustration: As events were being canceled or postponed or moved online, I was mad and upset with all the change.
- Depression: There were days when working from home took away all of my motivation and the apparent lack of celebration at the finish line made me not want to keep going with my projects.
- Experiment: I eventually looked for ways to celebrate my graduation – a celebratory dinner with my immediate family, Zoom happy hours with my friends and fellow graduates, Facebook Live celebrations hosted by my university, etc.
- Decision: As I’ve gotten closer to what would have been my graduation date, I’ve been holding on to the remaining traditions that I can and embracing the new traditions that are forming.
- Integration: Now that graduation season is here, I’ve been focusing on enjoying the celebration of my accomplishments, even if they look different than I expected.
Although I have gotten to a place of integration on the change curve, I still have days when I slip into a stage where my morale is lower. But now that I have words to put to how I’m feeling and a model to make sense of it, I’m much more comfortable letting myself be frustrated or depressed for a little while because I know I will move past it and get back to experimenting and integrating.
My message to the class of 2020 is to be ok with wherever you’re at on the curve. You don’t need to be at integration all the time. It’s ok if you’re not in a celebratory mood every day but look for the days that you are and take advantage of them. Enjoy this time in your life, take pride in your accomplishments, and take in whatever forms of celebration are accessible to you. You deserve it!
Adjourning is an important part of the Group Development Model, and it’s the part that’s been cut short for the class of 2020. Although graduation ceremonies are a more traditional way to experience adjourning, there are other ways that you can celebrate graduates:
- Create a video, slideshow, or scrapbook of memories
- Have a virtual celebration on an online platform such as Zoom
- Compile congratulatory messages (either videos or written notes) from friends and family of the graduate
- Recognize the graduate with a poster, banner, or yard sign at their house
- Have a night theme for the graduate (prepare their favorite meal, watch their favorite movie, play their favorite game, eat their favorite dessert, etc.)
- Have a backyard photoshoot to commemorate their milestone achievement and the crazy time that it happened in
While these celebration ideas cannot replace a traditional graduation ceremony, they can bring about a sense of celebration and adjourning that canceled graduations have left us lacking.
*Meet the Author*
Morgan has been with Leadership Inspirations for three years. He has a B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies from Chapman University and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Leadership Development while working in Higher Education Student Affairs.
Favorite quote: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end” – John Lennon
Fun facts: 1) I once trained my pet goldfish to play basketball 2) When I was little I wanted to be a Disneyland parking attendant 3) I’m a big Justin Timberlake fan