Open Letter to the Class of 2021, Welcome to the “Classroom of Life”

Dear Class of 2021,

I write to you, not as a veteran, experienced mother, or an esteemed professional whose accomplishments render me worthy of delivering counsel as is customary in marking these milestones. Rather, I reach out to you as a fellow student.

A student of life.

Let me explain. After thirteen years of standardized tests, classroom knowledge, and the guidance of a host of adults in your life, you now step into a more independent phase. You, no doubt, are giddy with the anticipation of the freedom that a release from the confines of high school brings.

This year’s seniors have learned some serious life lessons. (Maureen Stiles)

Students are no doubt thrilled to moving out of high school

Whether moving onto a university setting, embarking on trade school, enlisting in the military, or joining the workforce, collectively you will be receiving a higher education. An education that is not book-based or measured through written tests and assessments. This learning is experiential, varied, and continual.

And most importantly, self-guided.

This is a lot to take in, I know. It is easy to focus on the minutia and immediate next steps but that would be foolish. This is the ideal time to dream big. This stage of your life likely comes with a safety net of family and friends that provides the foundation for these early years of exploration. Think of it this way, everything, before today is viewed as basic cable, and tomorrow forward, will be endless channels in high definition.

When you look upon your primary educational years, no doubt some teachers will stand out as influential outside of the classroom as well as in. However, as the Class of 2021 has seen first-hand, there is no better teacher than life itself.

This year’s seniors have learned some serious life lessons

The universe has doled out serious lessons to our seniors in the last 18-months. The jury is still out on whether or not this has bestowed upon the world a group of resilient, wise young adults but my money is on you. Though experiences are individual, each of you has gained invaluable perspective regardless of your personal brand of pandemic upheaval.

Many of you have lost more than traditions, activities, and ceremonies. Families suffered the loss of employment, housing, or life in their immediate circle, These events likely overshadowed the educational curriculum and propelled you into life’s laboratory.

It is here that variables and constants are thrown together and the results are at turns combustible, bonding, or a true discovery. You are the only constant in this experiment called life and the variables and results will shift again and again over time.

This brings me to our commonality. I may be decades older and hopefully a little wiser than you are at this moment, but we share something important — achievement. Over the course of your lifetime, you will be constantly graduating. Most of these progressions will not include a turn of the tassel or pomp and circumstance, but you will continually advance from one goal to another both personally and professionally.

The opportunity to learn and graduate from one thing to another is ongoing

I say this not to take away from the celebration that is high school graduation, but to emphasize that the opportunity to learn has no expiration date. Your status as a “student” does not change with an etched diploma. Not in all the ways that matter anyway.

Though it may not have felt it recently, you are the lucky ones. You have a depth of gratitude for simple experiences, know the folly of taking anyone or anything for granted, and old-soul wisdom that will prove advantageous to you as you run into obstacles to growing and succeeding.

Although at this point you’ve likely already had an abrupt and informal introduction; today, I officially welcome you to the Classroom of Life. Create your own syllabus and make each moment a chance to gain knowledge about yourself, about bettering the world, and about all the possibilities that exist.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what the Class of 2021 can teach the rest of us as we navigate the halls of life together.

More to Read:

Dear Seniors, There Will Be Higher Highs and Lower Lows

About Maureen Stiles

Maureen Stiles is a Washington DC based freelance journalist, columnist and editor. With over a decade of published work in the parenting and humor sector, Maureen has reached audiences around the globe. In addition to published works, she has been quoted in the Washington Post and The New York Times on topics surrounding parenting and family life. Maureen is the author of The Driving Book for Teens and a contributor to the book Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults as well as regularly featured on Today's Parenting Community and Grown and Flown.

Read more posts by Maureen

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