So University of New Haven, where I teach, had graduation yesterday, in a big ol’ concert venue, and I volunteered to be there.
I’m still new enough at the job that I don’t sigh and dig out my regalia with a sense of whatever. (In fact, I don’t own regalia, and the school had to supply it for me, with the crimson and gold hood for my degree in religious studies.) The regalia is more of a pain though those big black robes — or, at least, in the case of my rented one — had weird sleeves that contained pockets in which I could store my cell phone, my wallet, the program, and a bagel, if I’d been so inclined.
I actually wanted to go see some of my students walk the stage, and congratulate them in person. I also wanted to meet some families, but it was a big venue and I got waylaid backstage afterward, and didn’t get to meet any one, but that’s OK. I got to hug and shake hands, and wish them well and remind them to stay in touch.
So I thought about those students today, as I rolled out of bed. I don’t know if they got up as early as I did, but I hope they woke up still glowing that they did it. I watched some of their struggles, and saw how hard they worked and how disappointed/excited/confused they got during their last year of college. And I want to tell them this:
The big world? It’s not so scary. It’s like college, only bigger. There are cliques and groups and clubs and families you can belong to, and just as you figured it out your first year in college, you’ll figure this out, too.
A few of the students are going on to grad school. Most are plunging into a job market that isn’t very welcoming. But I watched these students for a year, graded their writing, met with them in my office, stood before them in class. My money’s on them.
I worry for young people. The new normal sucks. I fear survival skills are going to be just as, or even more important than, education.
We’re throwing these young people into a shitstorm the likes of which we haven’t seen in almost a hundred years. I wouldn’t trade places with them. My generation had waders and lifeboats and shovels. They’ve got next to nothing.
I hope we can come up with a way to help them sooner rather than later.
Yes, the world can seem a little scary to a young person starting out. But, they have the innocence of inexperience and the energy of youth on their side.
That energy can take a body a long, long way, too.
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