To the Class of 2020: A time as this
Class of 2020, there is a phrase that often resurfaces around graduation remarks these days:
“May you live in interesting times.”
My first exposure to the phrase was in my first journalism class at Marquette University in 2012, where my instructor cast it upon us like a curse. Nearly eight years later, it feels more like a prophecy. We undoubtedly live in interesting, uncertain times. Grappling with a world scourged by COVID-19, systemic injustices and a general distrust of politicians, health authorities, and as I’m acutely aware, our media.
As I pondered how I might use the platform I have to speak into the lives of young adults graduating into this mess, I was reminded of a Bible verse. Upon rereading it, I found not only hope in its message, but the courage to carry on and face the challenges personally and professionally that our present circumstances have given me. The verse is Esther 4:14, and it reads:
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Whether or not you personally rely on the Bible as a source of spiritual truth, I want you to consider at least the second half of that verse. The greatest source of anxiety and fear many of us are all dealing with right now is “Am I prepared for this?” We may have other questions we are struggling with, whether it be —Will I find a job? Will I be able to provide for my family? Will I be able to survive this?
But they all boil down to anxiety over our preparedness to face the collective and individual challenges ahead. As many of us have found over the past couple months, certainty and assurance does not come from an extra pack of toilet paper. Certainty and assurance comes from trust, from faith in something beyond yourself and above all from evidence. What gives me certainty and assurance right now is what God has already seen me through, and the lessons I have learned and taken with me.
Class of 2020, you have each faced adversity over the past couple months, and well prior to that as well. Your academic and personal lives have been filled with triumphs and humbling moments, and the lessons of each will guide you in the way you interact with the world for the rest of your life. It may seem as though what we’re facing is something none of us are prepared for, particularly those who in many cases will be just entering the workforce, but you may be far more ready than you realize.
Even still, you will experience moments of success and failure in the months and years ahead. Do not let either define you. Do not rest on the laurels of a good day of work, but take that confidence into the next day. Do not be discouraged by failure, but allow that to serve as a catalyst for reflection and perhaps a change of course.
As Esther 4:14 reminds us, “Do not stay silent at this time.” Do not let your relative lack of experience prevent you from respectfully voicing your opinions. Your perspective may be exactly what an employer or supervisor who has done things the same way for decades may need at this time.
Class of 2020, you have every right to be disappointed with how our current circumstances have at least temporarily stripped you of your right to the traditional gatherings associated with the conclusion of your high school journey.
And while you also have every right to feel anxious about the next step, I would implore you to ask yourself this question: “Who knows whether you were not chosen for such a time as this?”