To the class of 2020: We’re all in this together
May 7, 2020
About fifteen years ago, I heard my grandfather tell my parents, “Yesterday is history, and tomorrow is a mystery.” It stuck in my mind; not because I thought it was wise or even because I knew what it meant, 6-year-old Shivali remembered it because it rhymed.
Fast-forward to one month ago when I heard a stranger utter the phrase again, and it was like I had an epiphany. These four months of 2020 are proof right before our eyes that we have no idea what tomorrow might be like, but we’ll get through it together. The class of 2020 is a symbol of that unity. If you look back at your years together, can you pinpoint your favorite memory? It might be exploring the booths on your very first Quad Day with your roommate, inaugurating your 19th birthday with your best friends at Red Lion, or cheering on Men’s Basketball for their win against Indiana just this past March. You might notice that, in each of these memories, you see yourself surrounded by the people you love. You’re not alone.
Graduation is usually your time to look back fondly on these memories and feel excited about the future. It’s your time to be proud of what you accomplished throughout your undergraduate years and know that you finally made it to the end of this journey. While graduation this year may not be exactly the way you’ve imagined it these past several years, it’s still your time. It’s your time to revel in who you’ve become as you passed each milestone at Illinois.
You were the first class under the leadership of Chancellor Robert Jones, the university’s first black chancellor. You were well into your first semester when you witnessed the historical election of President Trump. You saw the transformation of the Gies College of Business after receiving a $150 million donation from alumni Larry and Beth Gies. You supported the Graduate Employees’ Organization as they fought to negotiate a new contract. You witnessed the opening of Carle Illinois College of Medicine, entered to win a chance to listen to President Obama speak in our very own Foellinger Auditorium, stood in line to meet Hasan Minhaj and David Dobrik, partied with Lil Yachty at Spring Jam, and made history as the only graduating class thus far to have completed your final semester online.
Do you also remember the random girl who told you everything would be okay when you were crying in a Grainger bathroom, stressed about the three finals you had the very next day? Back when you were a freshman, you embarrassedly thanked that senior for showing you how to get back from the Quad to the Ike for lunch on your first day of class. Your friends let you crash on their couch after many long nights out. You stopped strangers on the street to take pictures of you with Alma Mater and Grainger Bob. You and your best friend can’t even count the number of times you joked about running through the Morrow Plots each time you passed by. You and your roommates laughed at the horribly burned meals you made trying to pretend you could be better than Gordon Ramsay. You waved down the driver of the MTD bus you just barely missed because the schedule on your phone app was off. You had the time of your life on that spring break trip to Cancun last year, and you fiercely missed your friends throughout this semester in quarantine.
Whether strangers or your closest friends, your undergraduate years would not have been the same without these people. The words “graduate” and “degree” come from the Latin term gradus, meaning step. Graduation is about acknowledging the steps you have taken to get where you are, and who held your hand through those steps. It’s about the step you’re about to take into something new. Graduating isn’t just about getting your diploma. It isn’t just about walking down that stage and shaking hands with administrators you may have never met before. Graduation is about being with your loved ones and celebrating everything you’ve been through at Illinois. It’s about knowing how far you’ve come, and recognizing who helped you along the way. You have every right to be upset about the milestones you feel like you’re missing this year. But, while you’re grieving your losses, don’t forget to cherish all the milestones you’ve already passed.
Congratulations, class of 2020. You’ve made it through more than you signed up for, and you did it together.
Shivali is a junior in AHS.