The COVID-19 pandemic has cut young people off from their friends and cancelled important rituals like graduation and prom. In lieu of live ceremonies and convocation speeches, our team reached out to some prominent Canadians, seeking their advice and guidance for the class of 2020.
What’s happening to you now seems unfair, and at times unbelievable. But I’d like you to think of it this way: You’re facing a pandemic at a scale that comes once in a century. The Greatest Generation was forged out of two world wars and emerged stronger from it. Even if you’re not in formal classes, you’re learning some of the most important life skills: resilience and the emotional capacity to weather difficult times are learned skills that will benefit you for a lifetime. In the words of Juno Award-winning artist Kardinal Offishall: “Even a rose can rise from the concrete. You guys have made the best out of possibly one of the worst times ever. And that just goes to show the resilience of the human spirit.”
It may seem like an odd question, but ask yourself: Which aspects of your life do you hope will remain changed when restrictions are lifted and we establish a new normal? Develop self-care rituals now so that you can better adapt to whatever is coming next. You need to look out for one another, and for yourselves. Heed the words of Sophie Gregoire Trudeau: “Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with the same compassion, kindness, respect and love that you show to others.”
Don’t lose sight of who you want to be. Let your drive, your creativity, your unique attributes “come out and play,” advises Olympian Silken Laumann. “When you find the courage to be yourself, you will not play small; you will take up space and you won’t apologize for that. Our world needs you to be the biggest version of yourself.”
Post-pandemic, your generation will face more global challenges. Our world really does need the best you. Helping others will help you become better. “We rise by lifting others,” says Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons, general manager of the Toronto Argonauts.
You have a responsibility, prompts Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “It is up to you to make yours a fulfilling life,” he says. “Be selfless and passionate and work every day to make better the lives of others around you, and you will enjoy a life well lived.”
To close, I leave you, the graduates of 2020, with the wisdom of a man who has watched the Earth spin beneath his feet, Chris Hadfield, former commander of the International Space Station. You can’t control the past or the future, he says. What you can control is what you choose to do moment by moment.
“Your life is not what you set out to do; it is not what you thought you might do. It is just the sum total of all the little things that you chose to do next,” Hadfield advises, “So choose wisely!”
Craig Kielburger is co-founder of the WE Movement, which includes WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day.