When all seems lost | They Overcame

An open letter to our students, 
especially the Class of 2020

Today students and teachers all across the state heard the final hammer fall, as their school-year hopes and dreams were finally, officially nailed closed.

Denied lifelong athletic pursuits, silent halls, prom dresses hanging alone in closets, ceramics projects drying out, kids struggling to learn remotely without teachers, friends and... laughter. None of us has ever stood in their shoes, nor the teacher's, who cannot say goodbye, nor the administrator's, who have given their lives to make the educational system the best they can, but have now had their control primarily taken away. I have not stood in their shoes. 

I have, however, stood at a place in life I never thought I would be.  I have walked roads that I did not choose.  I have seen my ideas and plans and hopes come crashing to the ground.  And I am still here.  I am thriving.  But it took awhile to get there. 

I cannot relate to my senior year halting to a close before my very eyes... but I have stood in utter shock, my body trembling in a foreign waiting room waiting to be called back to discover what had gone so terribly wrong with the man of my dreams that I had married just months prior.  I have dealt with uncertainty, with painful waiting, while the large arm of "chance" swiped everything I had worked for off the table onto the floor of the unknown. 

When all seems lost... is it really?  Yes.  And no.  

No one should ever belittle someone for expressing even the tiniest of losses... for haven't we said so many times, "It's the little things" that mean so much?  The scent of a friend's hairspray as you walk to class... that artwork that sits unfinished and just cannot be completed on Teams... seeing that one teacher who you know believes in you.  Some students have lost musicals and competitions they've invested their hearts, minds, bodies and souls into for weeks on end. Some will never get to that finish line one more time, or hit that baseball, or sit at lunch with their favorite people ever again.  Yes, emphatically yes, these things are lost.  

But no - ALL is not lost. 

Those of us who have walked through tragic circumstances, with faith, have found that if we grieve the losses, deal with the heart-wrenching and stressful and terrifyingly unknown... there can be - miraculously - gain on the other side. No, it won't be quick.  But it is there for those who are willing to grasp for it. 

A brilliant teacher once said:

"... We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." 

No one asked your permission to trade the ambiance of May prom for an agonizing crawl to the finish line of your high school career

You have no control over governors' decisions or pandemics or grumpy siblings or a parent with emotional challenges or substance abuse.  When all control seems lost... is it?  

Yes.  And no. 

We cannot control others' decisions, from the bedroom across the hall to the highest halls of power.  We deceive ourselves that we have the reins of our future tightly in our grasp, only to discover the horse we are riding has a will of its own, and no bit or bridle of ours is in its mouth. 

This unfortunate truth has a different effect on everybody, and it's power varies from day to day, minute to minute.

Sometimes the ride is an exhilarating adventure, and other times it's a terror beyond any we've ever known. Sometimes the uncontrollable racehorse of life makes us extremely angry, or moody, or tired, or just a little sad.  None of these feelings are wrong or damaging if you can deal with them honestly - because wait!  Though you cannot control the horse at times - you have NOT lost all control. 

Each of us was born with a will, a mind, a spirit, and emotions.  Deep inside, where no one else may truly see, where no wild horse can move, is that one-in-a-million individual called you

You are not lost.  You have not lost the power to work through your losses, to persevere, to laugh in the face of the crazy and be stronger.  Your attitude is the one thing that no one else EVER gets to choose. 

I'm afraid as adults in 2020 we've given you a bit of false hope at times - and I pray it will not mislead you now.  We've vainly promised, "You can be or do anything you set your mind on!" But in truth - you cannot be where you want to be right now, or do many of the things you want to do. 

But - you can choose

Will you choose to be a victim?  Will you look back on 2020 and think, "That's the year that all was lost, and things were never the same for me."  Will you stuff your emotions, never dealing with the pain until your health and relationships around you are effected by your unprocessed grief?

Or -
Will you cry your tears, write your poems, share your pictures, sing your songs, shoot your basketball?  At home?  In your driveway?  In the woods?  With your family, or in the quiet alone?  

You have not been given the expected gifts we all wanted for you to have this year. Grieve that. Mourn it.  Sing it.  Write it. Pray it.  But then please do not stay there for too long.  Those gifts may not return, and are lost. 

Instead, you have been given a "surprise" - like a blind date that wasn't your idea.  You have gifts set before you, but they are not at all like you expected.  They feel strange.  They are not what you picked.  But later - if you will have the strength to receive them - they are invaluable gifts all the same. 

Experience is a gift.  Learning how to dig down - to write snail mail to a friend, to go for a run, to write in a journal or get on your knees to pray is a gift.  When all you want to do is binge watch The Office, but you learn to take a break, to stretch, and go check on someone you love, you're growing into the pilot seat of your life.  You cannot control the weather there, or fly wherever you want to many times, but you can steer.  And dream.  And yes, even fly.  

To the class of 2020,.
who may see clearer
than any graduates have seen before.  


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