To the Class of 2021: You did it! Here are some starting pictures now | Chroniclers
Coming out of a weekend capturing photos of the 2021 class strolling the stage, I remember most families’ patience in supporting their children. You will be sitting in weather over 90 degrees with what appears to be a million other people to support your child. To the parents who resisted this weekend’s graduation ceremonies, I salute you. It was hot and you probably didn’t have the option to leave early like I did.
Most of the graduation ceremonies are the same. A procession of graduates followed by a litany of speeches about the uncertainty of the future, overcoming the past 12 years to get to this point and following your dreams (but this year’s graduates who gave speeches made an excellent job). And of course, COVID-19 is mentioned because we have all suffered from it, especially the 2021 class, with an unprecedented school year. And finally the graduation ceremony. While hardly anyone wanted to attend a three-hour ceremony, attending a graduation ceremony in 2021 had new meaning.
We had the opportunity to celebrate normally after a year and a change to get used to a new normal. The families of the 2021 graduates were more than excited to sit in the sweltering sun waiting for the brief moment their child was recognized as having crossed the finish line. These families have been patient – something we may have all mastered after this past year – to appreciate something in a new way.
I think for someone who graduated in 2011, I couldn’t wait to have a legitimate excuse not to go to my 10-year-old reunion in high school. But there is some appreciation now that things are sort of back to normal. And I hope to impart some wisdom to new graduates entering adulthood. But most importantly, it’s not the memories behind you. It is the future and the present. For the class of 2021, here are some things I learned 10 years after high school:
Everything will not go as planned. You could take a break and not complete your college education within the four years most students do. You might not finish college. You might not go to college. I took a few breaks to talk seriously about school instead of wasting my time on a major that wasn’t for me in a degree that I probably wouldn’t use. So if you have a setback, don’t panic. It’s not that you failed. This is how you elevate yourself to the challenge of failure. And usually things turn out for the best when they don’t go as planned.
Take your time. There is nothing wrong with taking your time to graduate, find a job you love, go to school, get married, and everything in between. Do it at your own pace, not everyone’s. There’s no one around watching your every move and judging you because you haven’t taken a step along with someone else. I graduated from college after taking a two-year hiatus. It worked a lot better for me than I thought it would. I spent time feeling guilty that I didn’t finish as fast as the others, but I think I finished at the right time and in the right place for myself. When I look back I wouldn’t change my journey because I needed every experience to become the person I wanted to be. It’s never too late to finish. I just finished my master this year and I will go to my too long ceremony.
Trust your gut and do things for yourself, not because you think someone else wants you to do something. I think I could have saved a lot of time by following this advice. I thought I should be an engineer because it would be a good career (bad at math), and I got a scholarship (don’t know how) to get an engineering degree (really, really bad at math). I wanted to do this, not for myself, but because I thought I had to have a serious profession like engineering to impress my parents (who never asked me to be an engineer).
Honestly, I think they would have supported me if I chdare to be a circus clown or go to art school. And your parents (who just sat in bleachers for three hours in the scorching sun with hundreds of other parents) will do the same. So do yourself a favor and choose a career in which you think you can excel because of your talents. Journalism and photojournalism ended up being that passion for me.
Get out of your comfort zone. When I got my first newspaper job at Southern Miss’s Student Printz, I was afraid to go to random people and ask their names for a photo caption. After six months, I was selected as the editor of the newspaper through hard work and diligence. So while it’s good to relax, you also need to challenge yourself to try new things. Surround yourself with people who push you and encourage you to do your best. I will never regret accepting something that pushed me into new territory to find a rewarding career.
I hope that by the time of the 10 year reunion of the class of 2021, they can look back on their accomplishments and be proud of what they have achieved, be it a loving family, a great career or being the stars of a TV show (who knows “Ben and Erin Napier made it work and there are plenty of famous Laurel people here!) Whatever you decide to do, do it. the with passion and in order to be true to yourself.