An Open Letter To The Class of 2021

I was driving down Main Street in Cedar Falls this weekend when I saw a hoard of young people walk across the street. They all looked so well put together as they laughed with one another. Staring off I started to wonder why so many more people than usual were strolling along downtown. Then it hit me. Several of the joyous people were carrying caps and gowns...

It was college graduation day.

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On my "graduation day," I was sitting in my living room a state over from my university, in sweatpants watching a guy on my computer screen formally confer all of the graduates their degrees. The moment it was over, I quietly walked back to my room and cried.

This was supposed to be one of the best days of my life. Why are we facing this pandemic at this moment in time? 

Yes, I was a member of the unfortunate class of 2020. The class that had to be sent home from our university as the pandemic broke out. The class that wept when we said goodbye to our classmates right before spring break because we didn't know if we would see them again. The class that entered the workforce at one of the worst moments in the country's economic history since the Great Depression.

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Before moving on, I understand that the pandemic did much worse for other people throughout the world. I am so grateful that my family has been safe, healthy, and relatively happy during the past year. This is a very first-world problem that I am discussing. I'm grateful to be privileged enough to even experience this sadness.


However, I do have some advice for the class of 2021 as they set out on this exciting new journey.

My advice to you

Understand that you are not your degree

For the past few years, you have been working tirelessly to attain that single sheet of paper that declares that you know something. Whether it be chemistry, psychology, advertising...you are expected to know and be passionate about this topic for the rest of your life.

My entire self-worth was tied to "the thing" I was supposed to do with my degree. It became my identity. Doing well in this "thing" meant that I also was doing well personally. And doing "the thing" that you went to school for, and spent hours of your entire life the past few years focusing on became a million times harder in a pandemic.

You are not the job you have. Your self-worth cannot be entwined in that. Find hobbies, talk to your friends, and realize that what you are doing is not nearly as important as the people you do it with.

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Moving back home for a while isn't as bad as you think

While some will walk off the stage with no worries and a job lined up for you many  (including myself) will end up moving back in with parents & family. When you do this you might feel like you've taken a few steps back. You know you worked so hard to get out of their.

My tip for when you're dealing with that is...to suck it up. You're most likely living rent free, you don't have to pay for food, and you get to hang out with your childhood pet...you're living your best life.

The only good thing about the last year was that I got to spend time with my family, and now that I live halfway across the country from them I realize how lucky I was. Enjoy your time you have with your family. You will probably never be living with them again.

Practice gratitude every single day

This is something that you don't need a degree to learn. Things will not go how you expect them to go. Your plans for the future may change, people will come and go into your life. The only thing you can control is how you look at the situation. You can always find something to be grateful for.

Gratitude is the most important lesson you will learn, and the obstacles that will come up against you will be your best teacher. If it's not, then remember to leave a strong review on teacher evaluations at the end of the semester.

Congratulations to you class of 2021! Your strength and adaptability have turned you into amazing human beings!

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