Last week, I watched episode 6 of John Krasinki’s YouTube show, Some Good News. It was his graduation episode, and I bawled.
It brought me back to the weeks I spent reading the COVID-19 updates from universities across the country. Every time a university would announce that they were postponing or cancelling convocation, I would automatically start crying. 😭😭😭
COVID-19 is taking away so many important moments.
Ceremony and celebration have always mattered to me. I still remember my high school graduation. I almost started crying during Pomp and Circumstance. If I hadn’t been a part of the band, I definitely would have started crying when they played For Good from Wicked (I mean, “Because I met you, I have been changed for good”? Come on). I remember walking across the stage and receiving my diploma. I remember crossing the stage at my university graduation too. Getting my alumni pin while waiting in line. Almost being off the stage before they’d even finished reading the name of my degree (it was looong). The reception the biochemistry department held afterwards.
These were all moments that mattered to me. Moments that I’ll remember forever. Moments that so many of our students are losing.
But it’s not just the major moments that we’re losing because of COVID-19. That would be too easy. We’re also losing so many of the smaller moments that I took for granted: The end-of-year ResLife banquet after years of working in residence. The feeling of relief after walking out of your last undergrad exam (which was, of course, in the very last exam slot). Holding your coil-bound honours thesis as you walk across campus to hand it in in-person. The time a friend waved a kleenex, still in the box, in your face because he didn’t know how to deal with your everything-is-ending tears. That one last time hanging out with your friends in the residence hallway eating mozzarella sticks. That one last, long hug with the friend who you don’t know when you’ll see next. Lying in the quad, looking at the sky, soaking in the fact that you. are. done. The RA party in residence after all the students are gone (yeah, the one where your best friend is hiding in his room in pain from not-yet-diagnosed appendicitis).
The big moments matter, sure, but the little moments are what makes up the bulk of our life. COVID-19 has given us a whole new set of little moments: Packing up your residence room with only 24 hours notice. Setting up a “temporary” workspace in a corner of your home. Participating in your first virtual event on Zoom. Stepping outside your home for the first time in two weeks (wait. Is that just me?). The last few months have given us moments we’ll never forget.
But the new moments don’t feel like enough, and I can’t help but feel sad for the moments that COVID-19 has taken away, the moments that some students will never have.
I’m going to go re-watch episode 6 and cry some more.
The Some Good News Valedictorian Speech(es)
To my fellow graduates and peers.
Not watching from the bleachers on our field, but rather watching from behind a screen.
Today, we might not have a grand stage to walk across to celebrate this moment, but we will be walking through history.
Congratulations, we made it.
It is my honour to represent the class of 2020 as your valedictorian.
Let’s pretend I look like this while I’m talking.
Tony Stark once said that part of the journey is the end. Never did we expect the ending of our high school and colleigate careers to end with us in our living rooms.
These last three months, which were supposed to be the best three months of our school careers, have just been ripped away from us.
But the thing about crises, is that it brings out the very best in humanity.
This is something that really unites us.
I’ve seen many of you in the Class of 2020 lead mutual-aid collectives, to help underserved communities effected by COVID-19.
It is more important now than ever to show the world what we can accomplish.
It is a time of reflection. A time to re-evaluate and decide what kind of person you want to be in the world.
In my experience, the strongest people are always those that have experienced the worst, but have come out on top anyway.
It’s our thoughts, our feelings, our actions that make up who we are, and I implore you all to never forget that.
The Class of 2020 has a very unique opportunity to lead by example.
We have the resilience to overcome any setback or obstacle that comes our way.
We did it, despite everything that’s happening, and nobody take our pride, and nobody hold us down.
We are stronger together, and together, there is nothing we cannot do.
Here’s to the Class of 2020.
You’re earned this.
You give me hope in humanity and that we can overcome this together.
Turn those tassels, baby. We did it.
I love you guys.