I joined part of my family on a Zoom meeting this past week. We were celebrating my cousin’s graduation from Yale. After four years of enduring the weather in New Haven, Connecticut and spending untold amounts of his parent’s money, Cormac Byrd has earned his degree. He already has a job in New York and is well on his way to realizing his dreams.
Cormac did not have the opportunity to walk across the stage, accept a sheepskin, and endure endless pictures with his family. Instead, he sat in front of his computer and listened as friends and family recited various haikus they had written in his honor.
In case you do not remember from your literature classes from high school, a haiku is a three-line poem. It has five syllables on the first line, seven syllables on the second line, and five syllables on the third.
This is a strange and crazy world we are living in these days. This is a time when high school students are missing proms and heading off to jobs or colleges without the closure of a graduation.
College students, like Cormac, have spent four or five years preparing for their own chosen future. They have reached the end of a long and sometimes challenging road to finishing a degree only to learn they will receive it in the mail.
During this time of year, I would often be writing letters of recommendation. Some would be for high school graduates that were applying for acceptance at a college or applying for a job.
Other letters would be recommending college graduates who had spent years preparing for jobs in a field they enjoyed. Unfortunately, they currently find themselves in a challenging job market at best.
My own letter of recommendation to the graduates of the Coronavirus pandemic are still evolving. I realize that each experience is different, and the future challenges are not the same for all. You and I are members of this class.
With that being said, I would recommend slowing down and experiencing the world around you. Our own neighborhood is so much quieter now that it seems the birds are singing louder. I have occasionally been tempted to take a shotgun to the mockingbirds outside our window every morning. Why do they sing so early?
I would recommend that you savor the home cooked meals that have been forced upon us. It has been a very, very long time since my wife and I have sat together for so many meals. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meals from our past. Fresh vegetables. What an unexpected blessing.
I would recommend exercise, especially for those that find excess time on their hands. I now walk eight to 10 miles a day. That is not for everybody, but I have found that it does two things for me. It keeps me from listening to the depressing cycle of news and it makes me feel better.
I would recommend binge watching some television series. My wife and I settled on a Netflix series, Longmire. We watch at least two episodes each night. For two people that have never watched much television, it has become addictive. It is like going to the movies together every night.
I would recommend reading or listening to books. I was a voracious reader in earlier years. The internet and multiple newspapers changed my reading habits. I have rediscovered the joy of good books, especially through listening to audio books. It is a blessing beyond compare. A great book takes the place of endless hours of Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC.
I would recommend reaching out to friends and family. Facetime with my 88-year-old mother is rewarding for us both. Virtual cocktail parties with friends. Zooming with our children and grandchildren. I believe in some ways we are becoming more connected than ever with our extended families
I would recommend walking in your yard, looking at your flowers. Nature has always been a soothing presence in our lives. I find myself looking at each blooming flower and learning the name of different plants. A bloom in your yard is a gift, to be savored and enjoyed. You just need to take the time.
I would end this letter of recommendation with a suggestion that we continue to nurture each other. Be respectful of our differences, but aware of our responsibilities to each other. Keep anxiety at bay. Suppress your fears by helping others. Lean on your friends. Lean on your faith.
Congratulations to the graduates of 2020. My recommendation to you is not to mourn what you have lost. I cannot remember the speaker at my own graduation, who I was sitting by, or much of anything else.
Savor what you have learned and embrace the future. Yours is the graduation that will never be forgotten during a time that will hopefully pass away.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]