A few years ago, our oldest daughter was graduating from high school and heading off to college in the Pacific Northwest during the middle of the pandemic. That experience was exciting and scary for all the normal reasons and the very not normal reasons. We now find ourselves celebrating our youngest as she closes out her high school chapter and looks ahead to what’s next. I’m humbled by the pace of life that seems to be in fast forward and also grateful for the opportunities ahead for both our daughters, and for our youngest as she heads to college out of state this fall.
It’s in these moments where celebration, fear, anticipation, sadness, excitement, love, and wonder collide, creating an explosion of emotions and responses. I find my brain going into reflection mode trying to savor the sweet moments and make sense of the challenging ones.
The last four years that have made up this 2023 graduating class’s high school experience have been anything but “typical”. They were barely freshmen when the pandemic turned the world upside down. They’ve faced significant uncertainty during some of a teenager’s most formative years. Already in their mere 18 years of life, they have collectively experienced one of the most impactful curve balls of our time and are individually navigating their bounce and path forward.
I often worry about the impact the last three years will continue to have on all our school-aged children as they move on to other important life events. We know there are learning challenges and social delays as well as connection, relationship, and mental health impacts that will continue to play out for years to come. It’s important to support our kids and young adults to traverse these challenges, learn to create healthy coping habits, and courageously build skills where there are gaps.
I think we also have an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the depth of resilience our kids have had to embrace to move forward. What an incredible skill to take with them as they navigate what is next, whether it’s college, a gap year, trade school, or a job. This strength is powerful and gives our kids and graduates the foundation to persevere through all the twists and turns life offers us. As parents, friends, family, neighbors, and teachers we have the ability to help this class of graduates see this superpower that they possess and to remind them it’s there for them to access when times get tough and life, work, and relationships feel hard.
It’s no doubt that our kids have been shaped and impacted by the last three years. I also believe they have gained a hard earned skill that will continue to serve them throughout their lives: resilience. They have gained this strength by learning how to absorb and hold pain, sacrifice, and disappointment and convert it into meaningful lessons and intentional actions for themselves and their communities. Their resilience offers them the capacity and capability of bringing a real grounding to challenging situations and shining a light on even a fraction of hope ahead. If we support them to harness this skill and embrace it, they can be our guides to light, love, happiness, and hope.
Congratulations to all of the class of 2023 graduates! Celebrate this milestone and celebrate your resilience - You’ve got this!